WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), co-chair of the Senate Next Generation 9-1-1 Caucus, and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced legislation to accelerate federal efforts to modernize the nation’s 9-1-1 systems. This funding will help ensure that states and local governments can deploy next generation 9-1-1 systems across the country. 

The upgrades are urgently needed to help move the country’s largely outdated 9-1-1 call centers and related technology into the digital age. The bill will help enable 9-1-1 call centers to handle text messages, pictures, videos, and other information sent by smartphones, tablets, and other devices when faced with an emergency.

“Infrastructure is more than just roads and bridges—it also includes critical technologies. We  must bring our 9-1-1 systems into the 21st century by providing state and local governments with the resources they need to update our emergency response networks and keep our communities safe,” said Klobuchar. “In a crisis, no one should be put in danger because of outdated 9-1-1 systems, and first responders, public safety officials, and law enforcement must be able to communicate seamlessly. This legislation will enable them to do just that.”

“Our law enforcement and first responders work tirelessly to respond to emergencies and keep Nevadans safe,” said Cortez Masto. “Yet when a natural disaster or other tragedy occurs, our outdated 9-1-1 system can cause slow response times and burden our crisis response network. Upgrading our emergency  call centers with 21st century technology is vital to ensure people calling for help get the assistance they need.” 

This legislation is endorsed by The International Association of Fire Chiefs and Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association;  NENA: The 9-1-1 Association; The Public Safety Next Generation 9-1-1 Coalition; iCERT – Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies, Inc.;and National Association of State 911 Administrators (NASNA).

As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee and co-chair of the Congressional Next Generation 9-1-1 Caucus, Klobuchar has been a leader in pushing to expand and improve emergency communications infrastructure. 

In 2018, Kari’s Law, bipartisan legislation to make contacting emergency personnel simpler and easier, led by Klobuchar and Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE), was signed into law. This law was inspired by the story of Kari Rene Hunt of Marshall, Texas, who in 2013 was murdered by her estranged husband in a hotel room. When Kari’s 9-year-old daughter tried to dial 9-1-1 for help, she could not reach emergency personnel because she did not dial “9” to reach an outside line. Kari’s Law requires the manufacturers of multi-line telephone systems (MLTS) to create systems that allow callers to reach 9-1-1 without dialing a prefix or postfix. The law requires on-site notification to make it easier for first responders to locate 9-1-1 callers in large buildings. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), John Cornyn (R-TX), John Thune (R-SD), and Ted Cruz (R-TX) were original cosponsors of the legislation.

In February, Klobuchar and Richard Burr (R-NC) reintroduced the Emergency Reporting Act to help ensure the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provides resources to state and local governments preparing for and responding to natural disasters. This legislation would also improve communication between mobile carriers experiencing network outages and 911 centers. The current system often leads to situations in which 911 centers are unaware of service outages, placing public safety at risk.

In April, Klobuchar and Richard Burr (R-NC) reintroduced  the 9-1-1 Saves Act to update the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) to better reflect the life-saving work 9-1-1 telecommunicators and dispatchers perform each day. Currently, the SOCa tool used by federal agencies to classify the workforce into useful, occupational categoriescategorizes 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers as “Office and Administrative Support Occupations,” which also includes secretaries, office clerks, and taxi cab dispatchers. She also introduced a resolution supporting the goals and ideals of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week.

“We are happy to join our fellow public safety and 9-1-1 industry organizations in supporting this legislation, and we thank Senator Klobuchar and her staff for their tireless dedication to making Next Generation 9-1-1 a reality for all Americans. We urge Congress to support this essential measure and give our country the modern, secure, resilient, interoperable 9-1-1 service it needs,” said Jennifer White, ENP, President, NENA: The 9-1-1 Association

“On behalf of the Public Safety Next Generation 9-1-1 Coalition, I am deeply appreciative for the leadership of Senator Amy Klobuchar and her longstanding efforts to improve 9-1-1 capabilities across our nation. Today, I am  thankful and encouraged to see Senator Klobuchar and Senator Cortez Masto introduce a Senate companion to the Next Generation 9-1-1 legislation that the House Energy and Commerce Committee included as part of the Build Back Better Act. Introduction of this bill highlights the vital need for supporting state and local first responders and public safety communication officials. We look forward to working with the Senate and House as they advance a historic investment in critical public safety infrastructure that will improve emergency responses and outcomes for all Americans, “ said Captain Mel Maier, The Public Safety Next Generation 9-1-1 Coalition.

“iCERT thanks all the public safety organizations and Congressional Leadership and Staffs involved in the legislative process and joins with all of public safety in urging Congress to pass NG911 funding,” said Kim Scovill, Executive Director, iCERT – Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies, Inc.