The BVI will be entering the new year with a state of the art 911 system that allows persons distressed to signal for help via text message and video.

The disclosure about the new upgrades to the current 911 system was made during an interview with Project Manager Russell Jones. In that interview Jones told The Island Sun newspaper that the modernizing of the system is expected to be completed by year end.

Jones said that the improvements will be a major leap for 911 services in the Territory. Frankly speaking – he said  – the Territory is not where it ought to be in this regard: “We are so far behind as far as 911 legislation,” he stated.

Since 2017 it was announced that the SMS features were going to be added to the 911 capabilities. However, Jones noted that this was not available as yet. “SMS and 911 isn’t active yet. The storm held it up. Things that were ready to go off got delayed because we weren’t able to activate…,” the Project Manager noted.

It was mentioned that the upgrade was delayed because of the 2017 disasters. Jones noted that the process was further delayed following hurricanes Irma and Maria because the location of 911 services had to be relocated: “The 911 location became where the Ministry of Health moved to, so they were there up to very recently, couple of months. We have only recently gotten back the 911 location.”

Now that 911 is back to its former location Jones said that work has commenced on the upgrade: “We can start inserting the servers, bring them up to speed — the upgrades the updates and actually change out the temporary hardware that was installed, because of the storm. 911 was demolished because we were at the fire station; so we had to be rushed into service on a temporary basis until we could go full blown or we can have all the features,” he stated.

As it relates to a definite date for roll out of the new features Jones said that he did not wish to give a definite time: “We don’t want to come out and announce that it’s a 100 percent ready until we have those new features actually up and running…”

Meanwhile it was noted that the upgrade is going well” “From a technical standpoint it is really just to upgrade to the PBX system. The software that actually answers the calls. The system we are running on now – replacing that whole thing; and that’s going to happen like next week or two weeks tops. We are expecting to be fully operational on line before the end of this year,” Jones said.

In the interim the Project Manager mentioned that preparation of the staff to deal with the upgraded system has commenced: “The training has already begun on the system and more intense training of new personnel will begin in October. A lot is happening in a short period…Our target date is before the end of this year for SMS and for location services – which will help us to know where people are. As well as video services where you can hold up the camera ad say this is what is happening and that information is sent to mobile devices; so who we are dispatching – if we are dispatching the police they will be able to see this information, so we are sending data and not just a phone call,” he added.

In 2016 Director of Communications, Arliene Penn disclosed Government’s plans to improve the Territory’s emergency 9-1-1 facility by upgrading to modern transmission services. At that time Penn also announced that Government was inviting tenders for the Next Generation 9‐1‐1 (NG911) Emergency Call Handling Services.

While the BVI initiative was not specified, internationally the Next Generation 911 system was implemented in countries such as the United States and Canada to enhance the 911 system by creating a faster, more flexible, and resilient facility that allows 911 to keep up with communication technology used by the public.

The NG911 IP-based system allows the transmission of voice, photos, videos, and text messages from the public, through the 911 network, and on to emergency responders, and Mrs. Penn explained that the proposals were being invited because Government is interested in seeing the implementation of a structured process of emergency call handling. She said that the overall aim is to ensure quality assurance.

The improved emergency call system is expected to improve organizational responsibility by creating an effective and timely communication link between the community, rescue, and health care professionals.

“It is important for us to have flexible, reliable and efficient hardware and software tools in place to construct this service that is expected to offer a fully-integrated workflow of public safety emergency response throughout the Territory,” Mrs. Penn pointed out.