Power to the people
There seems to be a consensus within the public-safety community that the broadband future will be realized sooner or later — and that it will take the form of the proverbial double-edge sword. Broadband will enable advanced devices and applications that will generate a blizzard of useful information for first responders. That’s the good news. The potential flip side is that next-generation technology will create so much information that 911 telecommunicators will be buried under an avalanche.
Based on personal experience, more information definitely is better. About a dozen years ago, I was involved in a rather nasty car accident two blocks from my home. I walked away with a couple of bruises. My son was less fortunate, though still very lucky. He suffered a head gash, but no life-threatening injuries.
I’ve thought about that night often since then. As it happened, a police officer was in his patrol car at the intersection, so emergency response was immediate. But what if we had been in the middle of nowhere instead of in the middle of town? In that circumstance, I certainly would want the closest 911 center deluged with vehicle telematics and location information. What if my son’s injuries had been more serious? I certainly would have wanted emergency-room doctors inundated with medical telematics data. And, if EMTs had been able to transmit still or video images of my son’s wound, the hospital would have realized much sooner that a plastic surgeon was going to be needed.
Most of all, I would have wanted our local PSAP to be able to effectively handle such vital information. I’m sure you feel the same. There’s just one problem, and it’s a big one. Congress refuses to provide the funding needed to bring PSAPs into the future.
So what should be done about this? My suggestion would be to get the public involved. If there’s one thing that members of Congress are interested in, it’s getting re-elected. I would create a grassroots campaign that leverages every PSAP in the country to let America know that while the 911 system today is very good, it could be so much better, if only Congress would make it a priority — both by opening the funding spigot and by, once and for all, preventing states from raiding 911 funds.
I think Americans would be outraged if they knew what has been going on. But I don’t believe that anyone thinks at all about 911 until they have to use it. I know I didn’t. It’s time that the 911 sector tells America all about it, one school, coffee shop and community center at a time.
What do you think? Tell us in the comment box below.