The State of Iowa has been awarded a $2.5 million grant to make improvements to its 911 system.
The grant, awarded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), is to be used to upgrade equipment and operations in 911 call centers. Iowa is one of 33 states receiving the grant.
“This grant will help us in our efforts to modernize the state’s 911 network,” said Joyce Flinn, director of the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEMD). “Funding from this grant will be used to support ongoing efforts as we upgrade to the most current public safety technology, giving citizens the ability to reach out to emergency call centers using text, video, and picture messaging. Ultimately, it’s the citizens who will benefit from the increased capabilities of Iowa’s 911 network.”
This technology, Next Generation 911 (NG911), is an Internet Protocol (IP)-based system that allows for seamless and automatic rerouting and transfer of wireless 911 calls in the case of an outage, maintenance, or a call center that is overwhelmed due to high call volume. NG911 also increases the data associated with the call, such as more accurate caller location or telematics from smart cars, as well as other internet-based devices that can reach 911.
“The infrastructure we’re putting in place will modernize the current 911 system and will allow the state’s 911 emergency call centers to share their call processing equipment across jurisdictions, relieving financial costs at the local level,” said Blake DeRouchey, the State of Iowa’s 911 Program Manager.
Iowa has been working for several years to upgrade its 911 network to support the use of NG911 and the funding from this grant award will be used for a portion of this work. Prior to receipt of the grant, this funding would have come from state 911 surcharge dollars, a fee placed on telephone bills to help build and maintain the current 911 infrastructure. This means $2.5 million in state surcharge can be freed up for use locally at the state’s 113 emergency call centers for such things as radio communications, Computer Aided Dispatch, and other emergency communication infrastructure.
“Along with local cost savings gained through these efficiencies, 911 callers will be able to transmit other than voice communications, such as video messages or crash data that is automatically sent from a vehicle, all with a more precise location,” DeRouchey added.
Iowa is considered an early adopter and leader in NG911 technology and was among the first states to offer text-to-911.
For more information on Iowa’s 911 program, visit www.homelandsecurity.iowa.gov.