WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, co-chair of the Senate Next Generation 9-1-1 Caucus, has introduced legislation to accelerate federal efforts to modernize the nation’s aging 9-1-1 systems. Specifically, the legislation calls for an expansion of an existing federal grant program designed to help state and local governments deploy next generation 9-1-1 systems. The upgrades are urgently needed to help move the country’s largely analog 9-1-1 call centers and related technology into the digital age and enables them to handle text messages, pictures, videos, and other information sent by smartphones, tablets, and other devices. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced the legislation with Klobuchar.
“As a former prosecutor and co-chair of the NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus in the Senate, I know how important it is for our first responders, law enforcement officers, and public safety leaders to be able to communicate seamlessly during times of crisis,” said Klobuchar. “Our legislation would provide state and local governments with the resources they need to efficiently transition to NG 9-1-1 and strengthen our country’s emergency response networks.”
While the legislation doesn’t put a specific price tag on implementing next generation 9-1-1 systems nationwide, Klobuchar and Nelson are awaiting a congressionally mandated analysis from the 9-1-1 Implementation Coordination Office to help better determine the cost. A 2009 U.S. Department of Transportation study estimated it could range between $9.2 billion and $13.2 billion.
In addition to increasing federal support for next generation 9-1-1 deployment, the legislation also would require studies on how to insulate such systems from cyberattacks and to make them more resilient in natural disasters and other catastrophes.
Click here for a copy of the legislation.
As a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Klobuchar has been a leader in pushing to expand and improve communications infrastructure. Klobuchar and Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE) introduced the bipartisan Kari’s Law to make contacting emergency personnel simpler and easier. In 2013, Kari Rene Hunt of Marshall, Texas, 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, which passed the Senate Commerce Committee in January, would require 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 legislation would also require on-site notification to make it easier for first responders to locate 9-1-1 callers in large buildings. Bipartisan legislation Klobuchar introduced with Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and John Thune (R-SD) also passed the Senate Commerce Committee in January. The Improving Rural Call Quality and Reliability Act would establish basic quality standards to ensure rural residents have the ability to place a 9-1-1 call. In addition, Klobuchar worked to include NG 9-1-1 grant funding in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 and has consistently introduced Senate resolutions designating April as “National 9-1-1 Education Month.”