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Why Oregon’s 9-1-1 Program Became RapidSOS Ready

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Authored by Frank Kutcha, Oregon State 9-1-1 Program Manager; Patrick Lustig, Oregon State 9-1-1 Program Operations Team Lead; and Adam Mele, Oregon State 9-1-1 GIS Coordinator

Three years ago, Oregon’s 9-1-1 Program asked its call center leadership team to identify their top priorities; unsurprisingly, wireless 9-1-1 call location ranked among the highest.

The existing 9-1-1 system used to locate cell phone calls is over 20 years old, designed long before smartphones or GPS. When a person calls 9-1-1 from a cell phone, the dispatcher can’t see the caller’s exact location; instead, they have to rely on the caller’s wireless carrier for the information. This data comes from a cell tower that could put the caller miles away from where they physically are depending on several variables, including proximity to the cell tower, topography and the connecting technology.

Today, with 80% of over 2 million 9-1-1 calls in the state coming from smart devices per the FCC, the priority for improved wireless location information has escalated. We are pleased to have pioneered a solution with RapidSOS that addresses this critical need, positioning Oregon’s 9-1-1 Program for the future for its call centers, their dispatchers, and ultimately, Oregon’s citizens when they are in an emergency and every second counts.

Adopting a new capability in Oregon

Our partnership with RapidSOS and Lumen is the first in the nation to provide enhanced wireless location data using an existing secure statewide foundational ESInet. In May of this year, Oregon’s 43 9-1-1 centers now have the capability to receive this enhanced data from the RapidSOS Platform, which can be securely integrated into existing call handling equipment while providing the ease of caller data within a consolidated display view.

By delivering a caller’s device location and fused-sensor data to the appropriate 9-1-1 center via RapidSOS the moment an emergency call is received, this technology can help save lives. The state’s 9-1-1 centers currently using RapidSOS have already noticed improved location accuracy resulting in more timely responses in real-world scenarios. The instant data access is helping our 9-1-1 personnel verify emergencies and provide critical location data to effectively dispatch resources.

In addition to centralizing the delivery of this information directly to Oregon’s 9-1-1 centers, there is also a cost benefit. The data allows these centers to eliminate added expenses associated with purchasing costly and redundant distributed networks, security devices, end-user licenses and the ongoing maintenance costs associated with acquiring supplemental caller location information.

Security scope and measures

Security and oversight were our team’s main concerns when approaching this project, especially given that this increased capability was to be migrated directly into our existing statewide 9-1-1 network. Our leadership had to weigh the risk of technology for the benefit of location disclosure to save lives. Together with RapidSOS, we developed a business case and plan that was vetted from data flow, security standards, and established structure to acquire and deploy a meaningful solution.

 The RapidSOS emergency response data platform is designed and managed in compliance with two stringent information security standards. The first, ISO/IEC 27001:2013, is the international standard for information security. It sets out the specification for a company-wide Information Security Management System (ISMS) which is a set of interwoven policies and best practice activities that define the company’s approach to information security. The second standard, SOC2, provides a framework for auditing and assessing a company’s data management systems to achieve industry standard goals including security, availability and confidentiality.

Furthermore, data transmitted through the RapidSOS Platform is securely transmitted utilizing Transport Layer Security (TLS) which encrypts the data and utilizes a trusted certificate exchange – all fundamental security functions defined within NENA i3.

Training and support

RapidSOS has demonstrated its dedication to the Oregon 9-1-1 community through foundational and continued platform training and availability. Multiple online courses and training materials are available through RapidSOS Portal to anyone using data from the RapidSOS Platform. Additionally, virtual group and tailored training are available to ensure capabilities are fully understood and data can be used to its fullest by all 9-1-1 centers.

The 9-1-1 industry is experiencing a great deal of modernization in service offerings. Here in Oregon, thanks to our partnership with RapidSOS and Lumen, we have successfully set a standard for securely deploying lifesaving location information into an existing statewide network, providing first responders with real-time, precise location data they need to save additional lives.

The Oregon 9-1-1 Program is part of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management; learn more at Oregon.gov/oem/911.

To learn more about the partnership between Oregon’s 9-1-1 Program and RapidSOS, read our press release here.