Next Generation 9-1-1
Sample RFP Template for NG9-1-1 Capabilities
APCO has prepared the “Sample RFP Template for NG9-1-1 Capabilities” to assist 9-1-1 directors and authorities with their procurement activities, whether for a statewide or local effort. This document is a first of its kind from APCO and is intended to address several concerns APCO has identified with the state of progress toward Next Generation 9‑1‑1.
The RFP Template is comprehensive in nature to cover all aspects of a complete NG9-1-1 deployment, regardless of the stage any state or locality is in concerning the transition to NG9-1-1. The RFP Template offers recommendations, guidance, and specific operational requirements that will be of interest to any state or local official involved in the procurement process, especially state-level 9-1-1 officials and directors and managers of emergency communications centers (ECCs).
Many RFPs are prepared from outdated, boilerplate language. This has hindered opportunities for increased competition and innovation. Specifically:
- ECCs are not getting the “next gen” capabilities they expect because:
- There is confusion about what “NG9-1-1” even means.
- “NG9-1-1” is not defined consistently and often not in a comprehensive way.
- ECCs are generally relying on cookie-cutter RFP templates developed by industry rather than telling solution providers what’s needed.
- Interoperability is either left to be worked out after the fact or not addressed at all. ESInets from different vendors might not be able to transfer calls, and call handling CPE might not be able to receive calls from a different vendor’s ESInet.
- There is confusion about what “NG9-1-1” even means.
- Cybersecurity, which is especially important for IP-based networks, is not being given enough attention in current RFP templates.
- States or localities act in silos to procure products and services from a limited pool of vendors.
- The 9-1-1 community represents a small customer base with relatively low bargaining power. Accordingly, vendors do not have the same incentives to innovate, compete, or provide interoperable, non-proprietary solutions to the degree enjoyed by consumers in the greater commercial marketplace.
- New companies with fresh thinking who incorporate modern communications technologies are gaining some ground but still must compete with the traditional way of doing business that often does not serve the best interests of ECCs.
- Most RFPs are limited to “ESInets” or “next gen core services,” while others include only data offerings (i.e., CAD, RMS, mobile data, etc.). A comprehensive approach is more likely to result in interoperability and cost-efficiencies. Yet even if NG9-1-1 is pursued in stages, RFPs need to make clear the expected end-state solution to avoid overly complicated and costly future integrations.
In the Introduction, the RFP Template lays out several main goals:
- Achieving interoperability among NG9-1-1 systems regardless of technology or jurisdiction;
- Promoting competitive and innovative solutions;
- Enabling the most cost-effective and operationally efficient solutions; and
- Ensuring these solutions include more than just an upgrade from analog based voice-only systems to true IP-based, multimedia capable systems and architectures.
Setting out these objectives at the forefront, combined with the more detailed operational requirements contained later in the document, lets prospective vendors know what your needs are, as opposed to the traditional approach where vendors tell you what they think your needs should be. This will encourage prospective vendors to devise flexible and innovative solutions that meet your objectives and operational requirements. Vendors tell us that they want to hear what you need and often feel restricted by RFPs that simply seek “compliance” with a standard.
Defining Next Generation 9-1-1
The Introduction is especially important in defining fundamental terms. When launching a procurement process (or building upon prior procurements), having a vision for achieving a full end-state solution for NG9-1-1, even if you intend to proceed with interim steps, will help you achieve efficiencies and keep vendors focused on a common end goal. (This concept is further emphasized in the following section on devising Service Level Agreements.)
The definition of NG9-1-1 should:
- be comprehensive, meaning accounting for a full end-to-end solution,
- include what will be needed by ECCs to not only receive new forms of data, but to process, analyze, and share this information (including call handling equipment, records management, Geographic Information Systems, and Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) functionality), and
- accommodate innovative approaches rather than restrict solutions to conventional methods.
The Introduction includes a comprehensive definition of NG9-1-1 and related terms. Essential to any RFP though is to also clearly define and require interoperability. Having laid out a comprehensive definition of NG9-1-1, a primary RFP objective should be to seek a fully interoperable NG9-1-1 solution.
Furthermore, the Introduction helps to establish your agency’s preference for the responding technology providers to form solutions that achieve interoperability for your agency’s operations. Experience has shown there is no guarantee that vendors will interpret and implement standards in an interoperable fashion. There are numerous options available to solution providers to facilitate true interoperability. For example, those solutions often involve the use of application programming interfaces (APIs) that are designed to facilitate linking dissimilar vendors and solutions through a common point regardless of standards.
The Introduction also helps to draw an important distinction between the use of the terms “interconnection” or “interconnectivity” when you mean to achieve interoperability. Interconnection is not the same as interoperability. Interconnection may mean that the equipment and services within the contract area can exchange information, but very likely does not mean that this is the case with ECCs outside of the contract area. “Interconnected” historically applies only to the ability to transfer the voice portion of the call, not any of the affiliated data. It is very important that you specify to your vendors that you expect interoperable systems, not just interconnected ones.
Because it’s the role of the solution providers, not public safety, to ensure that their products and services will be interoperable, the RFP Template does not leave the matter of interoperability to be worked out later. That would likely only lead to costly, after-the-fact integrations or additional proprietary solutions. After making interoperability a key objective in an RFP, APCO’s RFP Template also describes a conformance matrix to verify an interoperable solution has been proffered. This is preferable to affording the vendor the flexibility to demonstrate interoperability via a future compliance testing process.
Statement of Work and Technical Details
Because your agency may opt to separately pursue connectivity, call handling, and CAD/RMS solutions, the RFP Template contains a statement of work and technical details for each of these major components, all focused on meeting the operational needs of the ECC.
A common theme is that technology is increasingly creating opportunities for new approaches to NG9‑1‑1 networks, functions, applications, and services. Accordingly, the RFP Template invites forward-thinking solutions for NG9-1-1, even if the proposals deviate from traditional approaches to NG9-1-1 network architectures.
Further, these sections ensure that the RFP does not preclude, but in fact encourages, consideration of non-traditional ways of implementing NG9-1-1, such as cloud-based technologies, hosted solutions, or managed services that may provide increased benefits. There are also numerous protections to “future proof” your solution to the maximum extent possible, to anticipate and minimize future surprises and unanticipated, excessive costs or complicated integrations.
Importantly, the APCO RFP Template provides extensive guidance for cybersecurity requirements. Cybersecurity is deserving of significant attention and is essential to the success of any NG9-1-1 procurement.
APCO also felt it important to address the role of standards, in order to clear up confusion that exists among public safety practitioners and vendors alike. This and other sections of the RFP (especially the Evaluation Criteria/Compliance Matrix) help to describe if and how standards should be referenced for setting operational requirements and evaluating RFP responses for compliance with such requirements.
Evaluation Criteria/Compliance Matrix
Finally, the RFP Template provides a highly detailed and comprehensive compliance matrix with accompanying evaluation criteria. This portion incorporates all the objectives, definitions, guidance, and operational requirements of the entire RFP.
The PDF of APCO's RFP Template is available for anyone to download. You can download an editable Word version by clicking on the button below and completing a short form.
Questions? Suggestions? We welcome your feedback including how APCO can be of any further assistance. Send any inquiries to NG911RFP@APCOIntl.org.