Washington Post Op-Ed: Bring 911 Into the 21st Century

An opinion piece in The Washington Post calls for the Trump Administration’s infrastructure plan to include modernizing the nation’s 9-1-1 system. Specifically, the Op-Ed stresses the importance of moving to Next Generation 9-1-1, technology that will increase response times, location accuracy, and allow text, photo, and video data to be shared by callers to First Responders on their way to the emergency.

According to The Washington Post:

Even as an estimated 240 million 911 calls continue to be placed annually, the systems that service them have grown obsolete, unable to handle photos, video, downloads, precise geo-locating and even, in most places, simple text messages. That’s a threat not just to public safety but also to national security.

Worryingly, no one seems quite sure how to pay for a modernization to what’s known as Next Generation 911 (“NG911” in industry parlance), whose cost could exceed $20 billion. This week, as hundreds of public-safety and industry officials gather in the District for their annual 911 conference, many will have one main question on their minds: Why not prioritize an upgrade as part of the Trump administration’s national infrastructure project?

In Maryland, state Sen. Cheryl Kagan, a Montgomery County Democrat alarmed at the deaths of constituents in her district involving 911 breakdowns since 2006, has introduced legislation to help localities start the transition to NG911.

Advancing Maryland Next-Generation 9-1-1 Systems is one of MACo’s 2018 Legislative Initiatives. Maryland citizens demand and expect 9-1-1 emergency service to be reliable and efficient. Next-generation technology is required to keep up with this increasingly complex public safety function – improving wireless caller location, accommodating incoming text/video, and managing crisis-driven call overflows. Maryland must accelerate its move toward Next Generation 9-1-1, deliver these essential services equitably across the state, and assure effective coordination with communications providers. MACo urges a concerted statewide effort to guide this critical transition, harnessing the expertise and needs of front-line county managers.

Senate Bill 285/House Bill 634 – “Commission to Advance Next Generation 9-1-1 Across Maryland – Establishment” creates a Commission to examine at the strategic aspects of Next Generation 9-1-1 implementation in coordination with the Emergency Numbers Systems Board’s (ENSB) existing efforts, particularly ensuring that those areas outside of the statutory responsibilities of the ENSB are addressed. The Commission will study and make recommendations for the implementation, technology, funding, governance, and ongoing statewide development of Next Generation 9-1-1 to the Governor and Maryland General Assembly.

MACo is in strong support of SB 285 and HB 634, you can read the MACo testimony here.

Useful Links

The Washington Post Op-Ed: Here’s an idea for infrastructure week: Bring 911 into the 21st century

MACo Initiative: Next Gen 9-1-1 Commission Would Guide MD Forward

Conduit Street Podcast: 9-1-1 Takes Center Stage, Huge Drop of Bills Introduced, Sick Leave Law Looms, and Senate Changes Afoot