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Congresswoman Norma Torres

Representing the 35th District of California

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Members Seek Update on Next Generation 911 Implementation and Solutions to Patchwork 911 Systems

June 21, 2016
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Reps. Norma J. Torres (D-CA) and Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) requested an update from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the implementation of next generation 911 (NG911) systems across the country and the impact diverting local and state 911 fees has had on emergency services.

 

NG911 systems use IP-based technology to receive data from a wider range of devices and mediums and provide more accurate locating capabilities than the older 911 infrastructure.  The National 911 Program, housed within the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Emergency Medical Services, is providing federal leadership in supporting the nationwide adoption of NG911.  However, the implementation of NG911 has been inconsistent and many jurisdictions lack adequate funding to make the technological investments and provide the training necessary. 

 

“As we saw with this week’s release of the Orlando shooter’s 911 transcripts, in times of crisis, dispatchers are a key resource and often act as important witnesses.  Unfortunately, their ability to perform their duties effectively is being hampered by underfunded 911 emergency telecommunications systems that have failed to keep up with changing technology,” said Rep. Torres, a former 911 dispatcher.  “In order to efficiently respond to emergencies, dispatchers must be able to obtain as much accurate information as quickly possible.  However, under our current patchwork system, calls are being delayed or misdirected and vital information may never reach emergency personnel.”

 

"Upgrading our nation's 911 system is a critical investment for the safety of every American," said Rep. Eshoo, co-founder of the Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus. “With over 70 percent of the 240 million 911 calls each year coming from wireless devices, it is clear we need to take immediate action to modernize how our PSAPs answer these calls. For years, Congress and members of the NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus have pushed for a nationwide transition to a NextGen 9-1-1 system to bridge this divide, but more progress is needed. I’m hopeful the GAO can shine a light on the challenges we face and provide policymakers at all levels of government with a path forward.” 

 

In their letter, Reps. Torres and Eshoo ask GAO to provide an update on the nationwide implementation of NG911 and ask how the federal government can further assist in those efforts.  They also request additional information on how the diversion by some states of 911 emergency fees to other programs has affected the ability of communities to provide emergency services. 

 

Rep. Torres is a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security.  Rep. Eshoo is Ranking Member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Communications and Technology.  The full text of the letter can be found below and here.

 

 

June 16, 2016

 

 

The Honorable Gene L. Dodaro

Comptroller General

U.S. Government Accountability Office

441 G Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20548

 

Dear Mr. Dodaro,

 

We request the Government Accountability Office (GAO) conduct a thorough review of the implementation of a nationwide next generation 9-1-1 (NG911) system and provide an update on the status of this transition.

The growing use of wireless and Internet Protocol (IP)-based communications has demonstrated the need to upgrade and modernize our nation’s 9-1-1 system to process all types of 9-1-1 traffic from any device including voice, data, and video, and provide the accurate location of the caller seeking emergency services.

 

The federal government has taken an active interest in fostering an NG911 system. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Office of Emergency Medical Services is tasked with overseeing the National 9-1-1 Program and providing federal leadership to assist state and local governments in their transition to a NG911 system. However, progress has been slow and sporadic, and we’re concerned that NG911 implementation is not consistent across the country, leaving us with a patchwork system that is unable to respond to emergencies as effectively as possible.


In light of these concerns, we ask the GAO to address the following questions in its review:

 

  1. What is the status of NG911 implementation?

     

  2. How, if at all, do current federal efforts such as federal appropriations or technical expertise support nationwide implementation of NG911?

     

  3. What challenges, if any, do Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) face in implementing NG911?

     

  4. What is the impact of state diversion of 911 emergency fees on PSAPs and their ability to serve the community? What authority does Congress have or what authority would Congress need to prevent state diversion of 911 emergency fees?

     

  5. How are 911 fees and federal funds used to help train 911 dispatchers in new and emerging technologies, to assist them improve the delivery of emergency services?

     

    6.      Considering that many 911 call centers have not adopted NG911 technologies or implemented training in these technologies to its dispatchers, what funding could the federal government provide to help ensure centers are able to invest in new technology and training?

     

    In addition to these questions, we request that you update us on any other issues of concern that you may uncover during your review of our nation’s NG911 implementation. Should you have any questions please contact Grant Kerr with Representative Torres or Matthew McMurray with Representative Eshoo.

     

    Sincerely,

     

    Anna G. Eshoo

    Ranking Member

    Subcommittee on Communications and Technology

    House Committee on Energy and Commerce

     

     

    Norma J. Torres

    Member

    House Committee on Homeland Security

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