U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced legislation today to accelerate federal efforts to modernize the nation’s aging 911 systems.
Specifically, the bill calls for an expansion of an existing federal grant program designed to help state and local governments deploy next generation 911 systems. Nelson says upgrades – such as allowing callers to text their local 911 center for help, or send audio, video and photos during an emergency – are needed to help move the country’s largely analog 911 call centers into the digital age that’s now dominated by the use of smartphones, tablets and other devices.
“Upgrading the nation’s 911 system is literally a life and death matter that must become more of a national priority,” Nelson said. “In this digital world, Americans must have more than one way to access the 911 assistance they need and expect when emergencies occur. No plea for help should go unanswered because a call center doesn’t have the technology to receive a text, video or picture.”
In addition to increasing federal support for next generation 911 deployment, the legislation also requires studies on how to better protect 911 systems from cyberattacks, and make them more resilient to natural disasters or other catastrophes.
According to the Federal Communications Commission, 29 of Florida’s emergency 911 call centers suffered from impaired service in the days following Hurricane Irma. In fact, the FCC reported that at one point, 14 Florida call centers were completely offline in the wake of the storm.
Click here for a copy of the legislation.