The U.S. House of Representatives voted this week to create a new $12 billion federal grant program to upgrade America’s 9-1-1 centers to next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1). The grant program was included in H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, a package of federal transportation and infrastructure bills, approved by the House on Wednesday.
If enacted, the program will help 9-1-1 agencies across the nation accelerate the deployment of NG 9-1-1 systems that can better withstand disasters and cyber attacks, push and pull data from smartphones and sensors, and better locate wireless callers.
“Funding NG 9-1-1 is one of those special opportunities for both parties to come together, support a top public-safety priority and deliver life-saving benefits to every American,” said Gary Bell, the president the National Emergency Number Association (NENA). “We thank House leadership for their dedication to improving 9-1-1, and we are encouraged by the growing bipartisan commitment to NG 9-1-1.”
NG9-1-1 will let callers send text messages and transmit photos, videos and other forms of data to 9-1-1 centers, and allow dispatchers to better coordinate emergency responses. For example, a caller could send streaming video from a highway collision or personal medical data about a pre-existing condition, vastly improving the emergency response.
Equally important, the handling of 9-1-1 calls will be more efficient and flexible in an NG 9-1-1 environment. Overwhelmed 9-1-1 centers will gain the ability to transfer calls and the associated data to other centers during disasters, service outages, or when calls are misrouted — processes that are difficult and time-consuming in most communities today.
“All Americans deserve high-performing 9-1-1 service, no matter where they live, work or travel,” said Bell. “We call on the House and Senate to work together to send a strong NG 9-1-1 bill supported by all 9-1-1 stakeholders to the president’s desk as soon as possible.”