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New organization formed to enhance public access to essential services (2/23)

February 23, 2009
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Representatives from 12 national organizations approved the charter of a new organization, the N11/8XX Essential Services Interoperability Council (NESIC) at a ceremony held February 18 during a conference in Orlando, Fla., according to a recent press release. Recognizing a need for collaboration and coordination across services, NESIC members hope to facilitate interoperability among N-1-1 and 8XX services, collaborate on policy issues, develop technical standards and operating procedures, and serve as one voice for all N-1-1 and 8XX services to the government, the public and private industry.

“Many of the important issues these groups face are commonly shared across services,” states Brian Fontes, CEO of the National Emergency Number Association. “These common issues can and should be addressed collectively. In doing so, citizens in need can then experience consistent, high quality service whether they call 2-1-1, 5-1-1or 9-1-1 anywhere in the U.S.”

N-1-1 codes, more formally known as service codes, are used to provide three-digit dialing access to special services. In the U.S., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) administers N-1-1 codes and currently recognizes 2-1-1, 3-1-1, 5-1-1, 7-1-1, 8-1-1 and 9-1-1 as nationally assigned. The 8XXs are national 800 numbers such as 1-800-222-1222 for Poison Control Centers and a national suicide hotline network, accessible through either 800-SUICIDE or 800-273-TALK.

“By formalizing the group, we hope to achieve parity among N11/8XX Essential Service Providers,” commented Jim Hirt, Executive Director of the American Association of Poison Control Centers. “As one voice, NESIC will be able to make recommendations to appropriate governmental bodies regarding N11/8XX communications issues and foster the development of best practices, operational procedures, and technical standards for the sharing of information across providers.”

NESIC have worked to document their priority issues and outline actions that they hope will be taken by the Obama administration and the 111th Congress.

“NESIC, like many other sectors, remain well behind in the deployment of advanced technology, using 20th century technology to operate in the 21st century,” said Linda Daily, Director 2-1-1, United Way of America. ”Our partners, the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS) and the 2-1-1 US Steering Committee agree that our high priority issues center around the application of advanced technology that can be used to interoperate across entities and communicate with citizens in the ways they communicate every day, whether it is text messaging, instant messaging or traditional voice.”

Invited NESIC members include the Alliance of Information and Referral Systems (AIRS), the United Way of America, and the 2-1-1 US representing 2-1-1; the 5-1-1 Coalition with American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO); the National Association of State Relay Association (NASRA) representing 7-1-1; One Call Systems International (OCSI) representing 8-1-1; the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), and the National Association of State 9-1-1 Administrators (NASNA) representing 9-1-1; the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC); and the National Hopeline Network and Link2Health Solutions representing suicide hotlines.

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