Legally Traceable Time® In Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs): Why It Matters

When it comes to keeping time in a public safety answering point (PSAP), there are three key considerations.

  1. Consistency – All systems and devices employing time and/or time stamps must use the same references
  2. Credibility – The reference must be traceable to a government-sanctioned body; i.e., UTC time
  3. Accuracy – That time synchronization be suitable and enough to provide optimum performance for the connected equipment

Time-stamped records, especially those on logging voice recorders, are often subpoenaed in court cases, so the use of legally traceable time is critical. When connected to an Orolia NetClock®, time on all the equipment stays synchronized and traceable to US Government-maintained atomic clocks.

Accurate time of day is important in Public Safety 911 and Communications Centers for coordination between and among systems and agencies, as well as for time stamping event records to provide legal evidence of emergency response times in court. Orolia’s NetClock® automatically keeps all the clocks in a center running exactly on time. Synchronizing each system to a NetClock eliminates the need for an operator to manually reset equipment clocks due to clock drift.

PC clocks are famous for their low-cost clock crystals and poor timekeeping, with documented drift rates easily reaching and exceeding 7 to 10 seconds per day. This means the 911 telephony, radio and dispatch systems can easily differ by several minutes after just one or two weeks. Providing time to the center from a NetClock improves operational quality and eliminates two important issues: consistency and credibility of the time stamp attached to each of the 911 event records.

There is a relatively new precision timing requirement in the NG-911 all-IP Emergency Services Network. All calls are VoIP now using the SIP protocol, which routes calls to different regional centers and, nationwide, to search location databases, jurisdictions and records management systems.

To maintain the two-second response time goal – the time between pressing “send” on your phone and when an operator answers — the complex SIP call routing process must be monitored, and time synchronized to the millisecond. No longer just for providing Legally Traceable Time®, the time server in the PSAP is now a crucial network monitoring and diagnostic aid for these complex routing functions.

Orolia offers a complete time synchronization solution to public safety agencies, beginning with a GPS/GNSS-based network appliance timing reference to the time management software applications that ensure that accurate legal time has been delivered and traceability documented for each workstation. Our long association with NENA and other major solution providers is evidenced by the more than 4,500 PSAPs who employ NetClock® timing systems to maintain credible, consistent dispatching records, support interoperability between systems and inter-agency coordination efforts, and improve overall response times.

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Sadie Nedo
Sadie Nedo

Sadie Nedo is a global account manager at Safran, where she supports the public safety market. For over a decade, she has specialized in helping PSAPs develop and deploy solutions that simplify the integration of precision timing and frequency into their critical infrastructures. She holds a bachelor's degree in advertising and public relations from Rochester Institute of Technology.