Franklin County, Pa., to Upgrade 911 System

The program works with states, technology providers, public safety officials and 911 professionals to ensure a smooth transition to an updated 911 system that takes advantage of new communications technologies.

by Andrea Rose, The Record Herald, Waynesboro, Pa. / February 8, 2019

(TNS) - Franklin County Commissioners are expected to vote today on an agreement with CenturyLink to provide hardware/software upgrades to improve the county's 911 system.

The $543,924.26 upgrade is a federal requirement under the National 911 Program.

Created by Congress in 2004 as the 911 Implementation and Coordination Office, the National 911 Program is under the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration at the U.S. Department of Transportation and is a joint program with the National Telecommunication and Information Administration in the Department of Commerce.

The program works with states, technology providers, public safety officials and 911 professionals to ensure a smooth transition to an updated 911 system that takes advantage of new communications technologies.

The 911 system was created in the U.S. in 1968 to provide a universal, easy-to-remember number for people to reach police, fire or emergency medical assistance from any phone in any location, without having to look up specific phone numbers.

Because most 911 systems were originally built using analog rather than digital technologies, public safety answering points across the country need to be upgraded to a digital or Internet Protocol-based 911 system, commonly referred to as Next Generation 911.

NG911 will allow voice, photos, videos and text messages to flow seamlessly from the public to the 911 network.

"Texts will come in more like a text message," explained John Thierwechter, director of the county Department of Emergency Services. Previously, he said, text messages to 911 would appear as a TTY message coming from those with hearing impairments. "This is much improved," he said.

NG911 will also improve PSAP ability to help manage call overload, natural disasters, and transferring of 911 calls and proper jurisdictional responses based on location tracking.

"We can be advising incoming units about what we are seeing, whether it be flames or an active shooter," Thierwechter told commissioners. And both citizens and dispatchers will be able to send photos and live video. " It's a much enhanced way of providing situation awareness."

Years ago in Franklin County, 911 calls were routed to the small communities served, such as Washington Township or Mont Alto.

Today, Franklin County Emergency Services Department dispatches all emergency units county-wide with the exception of the Pennsylvania State Police.

Last year, the county's 911 center handled more than 80,000 calls, with about two-thirds of them coming from wireless phones.

The CenturyLink agreement provides for the purchase and installation of hardware/software upgrades. Partial funding is anticipated from Act 12 911 tax surcharge.

The Board of Commissioners meets at 9:30 a.m. today in the Commissioners' Office, 340 N. Second St., Chambersburg.

Contact Andrea Rose at arose@therecordherald.com or 717-762-2151.

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