9-1-1 calls are a lifeline for those in danger, and essential for our public safety personnel to respond quickly to emergencies. Public safety communications are a priority for Senator Inouye and myself as we work together in the Commerce Committee.
In 1967, the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice recommended that a single number be established to report emergency situations. AT&T established 9-1-1 as the emergency code throughout the United States.
I’ve come to the Senate today to speak about one of my constituents; a 4-year-old named Tony Sharpe. He’s a preschooler in North Pole, Alaska. When his mother collapsed and lost consciousness during a gall bladder attack, Tony knew to call 9-1-1 because his grandmother had sent him a children’s book called “It’s Time to Call 911: What to do in an Emergency.” Tony called 9-1-1 and his mother received emergency medical help. He is proof that proper education about 9-1-1 can help save lives. As a matter of fact, Tony again on another emergency called 9-1-1 when they lived at another location and once again he had the privilege of helping his mother.
This week I had the honor of presenting the E9-1-1 Institute’s “Citizen in Action Award” to Tony. He sets a fine example for young people throughout our country, and Alaskans are proud of him.
Heroic actions such as Tony’s led Senator Clinton and me to introduce S. Res 468, designating April 2008 as “National 9-1-1 Education Month,” to recognize the need to educate Americans about the proper use of 9-1-1 and raise awareness of how the system works with new technologies.
Ensuring that 9-1-1 is compatible with new communication technologies is crucial to the safety and security of all Americans.
The E9-1-1 Congressional Caucus has worked to pass legislation to improve 9-1-1 service. Last week the Senate approved S. 428, the IP-Enabled Voice Communications and Public Safety Act. This act requires communications services to provide customers with 911 access and establishes the framework for IP-enabled voice service providers to coordinate with public safety entities. It also ensures that the next generation 9-1-1 systems reach rural America and is accessible by Americans with disabilities.
The Commerce Committee worked on this bill for several years and I look forward to working with the House to send this bill to the President as soon as possible.
We will continue to ensure that our 9-1-1 system keeps up with changing communication technology and that Americans of all ages know help is only a phone call away.
Audio of Senator Stevens’ floor statement can be found here.