Then and Now: Transforming Communication for Public Safety

Guest Blogger: Jim Bugel, Vice President, AT&T Public Safety Sector, IACP Platinum Partner

Police picAT&T’s products and services have supported first responders since the late 1870’s

Who invented the telephone? Alexander Graham Bell. You probably knew that already. But did you know that police and firefighters were among the earliest people to use the telephone? For more than 130 years, first responders have relied on telephones to help serve and protect communities across the U.S.

We have a long-standing tradition of providing telecommunications products and services to first responders since the dawn of local telephone exchanges in the late-1870s. Although the technology has changed significantly, our commitment to public safety hasn’t.

1880 – American Bell Telephone, predecessor to AT&T, licensed the Gracewell Fire Alarm Telegraph Co. to include telephones in their police signal telegraph system in Chicago. Bell supplied the telephone instruments for the patrol box system that replaced the telegraph system. This would eventually become the Chicago Police Patrol System.

1930 – Western Electric, an AT&T subsidiary, installed the first one-way and two-way radiotelephone equipment in police patrol cars. Municipal police dispatchers across the nation were using the new system by the late-1930s.

1953 – AT&T began developing an Emergency Reporting Telephone System (ERTS) for municipal governments. We installed bright red call boxes marked “Fire” or “Police” in the city streets. People used the handset in the box to report an emergency situation to a dispatcher at a control center. The dispatcher then contacted the local fire or police department.

1968 – AT&T made 9-1-1 available nationwide. The service provided people with a short, easy-to-dial number to reach public safety agencies.

1980 – AT&T introduced an Enhanced 911 (E911) Service. Telephones could now identify the location of the phone number making the call. The call would automatically forward to the police department serving the location. The location would appear on a screen in front of the answering officer who would transfer the call to the fire department or rescue squad.

Today, 9-1-1 calling systems for law enforcement, fire departments, and Emergency Medical Responders (EMS) have changed considerably. We’re committed to helping public safety agencies migrate from their older voice systems to Next Generation 9-1-1 services.

AT&T ESInetTM is a new solution planned to be available in the second half of 2016 that will offer first responders a state-of-the-art, robust, and flexible network with call routing services for 9-1-1 agencies. Before, first responders would need to manually route voice calls to the appropriate parties. Now, they will be able to automatically handle call overflow between Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) and disaster recovery locations.

AT&T ESInetTM can also handle texts and will support pictures and video in the future. For example, a witness at the scene of a car accident will be able to send EMS a picture or video of the incident. EMS workers can be better prepared and arrive with the right resources. AT&T ESInet will be a flexible solution that can help make the transition easier and more affordable for public safety agencies.

And it doesn’t stop there. We’re also helping companies and organizations offload their non-critical voice traffic. AT&T Enhanced Push-to-Talk is bridging the gap between two-way radios and push-to-talk (PTT) devices. Before, dispatchers using a land mobile radio could not communicate directly with PTT users.

Now, they can talk to their field workers no matter if they’re using a two-way radio, desk phone, or AT&T EPTT device. This allows for quick and easy collaboration from almost anywhere. Companies can keep their existing radio system and add IP-based tools for their workforce.

From 1880 to now, businesses and government agencies have relied on AT&T to change the way they communicate. Solutions like AT&T ESInet and AT&T Enhanced Push-to-Talk are helping them become more versatile and efficient. We’ll continue to build technology that can transform how they interact with their workforce and communities for the next 130 years and beyond.

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