Missouri legislators and leaders from surrounding areas are examining various means of 911 call center improvements.
Missouri 911 centers are struggling as more residents disconnect their land lines and replace them with cell phones. This decreases 911 funding financed by a land-line charge.
The fact wireless system funding did not previously exist in Missouri state legislation baffled Tennessee Emergency Communications Board Executive Director Lynn Questell.
“911 has become something that people expect,” she said. “Tennessee is a national leader in 911.”
The state adapted a wireless 911 system in 2005. Questell said the success of the centers comes from the structure of the board members.
Tennessee collects funding from a 911 service charge implemented since 1998. The state charges users a $12 service fee every year to their cell phone bill.
Funding for call center improvements in Missouri would come from a sales tax. However, state Sen. Jim Lembke, R-Lemay, said voters have shut down this proposal twice.
According to the Save911 website, every state but Missouri charges a wireless 911 user fee.
Questell said wireless emergency communication can also lead to texting to 911 down the road. Kansas 911 Mid-America Regional Council Keith Faddis discussed how Kansas is trying to implement a 911 texting system, but it is ultimately left in wireless providers’ hands whether or not to administer the service.
Missouri does not have a 911 state program, according to the Missouri Advisory Committee Strategic Plan. Each county jurisdiction is responsible for the establishment of their own 911 center, public-safety answering points and the funding for these systems.
Improvements in 911 communication will also aid hearing loss victims, according to James Marks, Deaf Empowerment Awareness Foundation Inc. general counsel.
“[A new 911 system] will help the deaf immensely, especially wireless capabilities,” Marks said.
The committee will submit a 911 call center improvement report to the Speaker of the House by Dec. 31.
– Missouri Digital News