Specifically, the bill calls for an expansion of an existing federal grant program designed to help state and local governments deploy next generation 9-1-1 systems. The senators say upgrades are urgently needed to help move the country’s largely analog 9-1-1 call centers and related technology into the digital age and enabling them to handle text messages, pictures, videos, and other information sent by smartphones, tablets, and other devices.
“Upgrading the nation’s 9-1-1 system is literally a life and death matter that must become more of a national priority,” said Nelson. “In this digital world, Americans must have more than one way to access the 9-1-1 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.”
“As a former prosecutor and co-chair of the NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus in the Senate, I know how important it is for our first responders, law enforcement officers, and public safety leaders to be able to communicate seamlessly during times of crisis,” said Klobuchar. “Our legislation would provide state and local governments with the resources they need to efficiently transition to NG 9-1-1 and strengthen our country’s emergency response networks.”
While the legislation doesn’t put a specific price tag on implementing next generation 9-1-1 systems nationwide, the senators said they hope to receive soon a congressionally mandated analysis from the 9-1-1 Implementation Coordination Office to help better determine the cost. A 2009 U.S. Department of Transportation study estimated it could range between $9.2 billion and $13.2 billion.
In addition to increasing federal support for next generation 9-1-1 deployment, the legislation also would require studies on how to insulate such system from cyberattacks and to make them more resilient in natural disasters and other catastrophes. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), 29 of Florida’s 9-1-1 call centers suffered from impaired service in the days following Hurricane Irma. In fact, the FCC reported that at one point on September 11, 14 call centers were completely offline.