NENA conference highlights key 911 issues for attendees, federal officials
Encouraging Congress to approve federal grants to help fund 911 and pass legislation that would address issues associated with multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) are among the primary goals for the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) in 2015, according to NENA CEO Brian Fontes.
This week, NENA hosted its annual “911 Goes to Washington” conference, which is designed to educate attendees and federal officials about challenges facing the emergency-calling community in the United States. This year, a primary focus was the recent FCC order that established new location-accuracy rules for wireless calls to 911, Fontes said.
“I thought that it was, if not the most successful, clearly one of the more successful [911 Goes to Washington conferences] we’ve had,” Fontes said. “We had more attendance than we anticipated. The presentations were right on target. And the reviews from the folks that attended have been excellent.”
Under the law enacted in February 2012 that created FirstNet and allocated $7 billion to support the deployment of a nationwide public-safety broadband network, Congress earmarked $115 million in funding for next-generation 911. During this week’s conference, National 911 Program Coordinator Laurie Flaherty said the funding—from proceeds from the AWS-3 spectrum auction that generated almost $45 billion in bids—likely would be provided to her office in late summer, after which a procedure would be established to determine the criteria for distribution, Fontes said.
“So, money probably won’t be going out to anyone in the 911 space for another year,” he said.
In addition to the educational sessions, conference attendees were given the opportunity to speak with federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill about key 911 issues, including funding, Fontes said.
“We’re always trying to get funding for 911 or to allow 911 to qualify for funds that are available but are given to other public-safety agencies,” Fontes said. “Now that this [AWS-3] auction has been as successful as has, we’ve got to take a look at what implications it will have for the next auction, which is the incentive auction.”
In addition, NENA plans to continue its push for legislation that would allow people to dial 911 directly when using a phone that is part of an MLTS network.
Today, many MLTS networks require users to dial a separate number—typically “9”—to get an outside line. As a result, someone using an MLTS network would need to dial “9-911” to reach a public-safety answering point (PSAP) during an emergency. In December 2013, Kari Hunt died in a Texas hotel room as her 9-year-old daughter repeatedly dialed “911” but did not reach a PSAP, because the girl did not know that she first needed to dial “9” to get an outside line.
“For the last couple of years, we’ve been pushing for legislation on the MLTS issue, to make that consistent across the country,” Fontes said.