As reported in the Cumberland Times-News, Allegany County is receiving a $1.1 million phone upgrade for its 911 call center that will improve the capacity and routing of calls received, and allow the center to receive emergency text messages.
The center handles 200 to 300 emergency or 911 calls daily along with 500 to 600 information or administrative calls (a number that typically increases during bad weather). The call volume has increased by 20,000 in the last four years.
The phone system upgrade will provide an “answering tree” for non-911 calls — such as requests for phone numbers, addresses, inquiries, requests to speak to an officer, barking dog complaints, etc. The system will relieve dispatchers from becoming overwhelmed with informational calls.
The phone upgrade will provide technology for receiving and answering text emergency calls. Until now, the 911 center could not receive or respond to emergency text messages. Text messages are sometimes able to be sent from remote areas where voice messages cannot be sent due to a lack of signal strength.
The phone upgrade is being funded by the Maryland Emergency Numbers System Board through 911 surcharge fees and is expected to be completed the beginning of December.
MACo supported legislation during the 2013 session, SB 745, to extend the 911 surcharge to prepaid phone services. Just like the revenue from the existing surcharge, 75% will go to counties for costs associated with maintenance and operations of local 911 systems and 25% will go to the enhancement fund administered by the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.