(KTRE) - An East Texas state representative, who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, filed a bill to upgrade the 911 system across the state.
“If you’re on a rural Farm to Market Road in Nacogdoches or in Tyler County, or if you’re on the freeway in Houston or Dallas when you dial 911, you deserve to get immediate response from first responders and law enforcement,” District 19 Republican James White said. “As we have dived into this issue of that winter storm, the thought of communications comes up over and over again. This is one piece that we have good 21st century communications.”
White said House Bill 2911 aims to have next generation technology for landline and wireless systems for 911 services.
“Let’s say your grandmother is on the fifth floor of a hotel room,” he explained. “There is a way with what we have right now, we know the address 1234 Main Street. That’s the address of the hotel stay. But with the next gen, not only can we do X, Y coordinates, we can do X, Y, Z coordinates, so we’ll know she’s on the fifth floor and exactly where on the fifth floor. When you look at some issues, like a heart attack or stroke, every millisecond counts. That is a life.”
“It also opens up the door for future services such as medical telematics, sending instructions for first responders, video to 9-1-1,” said Van Bush, the Regional 9-1-1 Director for the Deep East Texas Council of Governments. “Plus, it is more reliable and faster and more accurate call routing.”
Since September, the Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG) uses next gen 911 services in its 12-county region with funding from the Commission on State Emergency and Communications.
“Since that time, we’ve added wireless text to 911 and mapping,” Bush said. “All kinds of services that we’re designed to run on an analog system, but they are designed to run on a digital system which is what NG-911 is.”
DETCOG Executive Director Lonnie Hunt said the Commission on State Emergency and Communications uses the Council of Governments on a regional basis to administer 911 services. Twenty-one out of the 24 Council of Governments (COGs) in the State use 9-1-1 services with help from the Commission on State Emergency and Communications. DETCOG is one of three COGs to have the next generation 911 technology.
“We’re fortunate we’re already there, but we know there will be increased costs for maintenance,” Hunt said. “There’s going to be new technologies in the future that will require more investment in our region. We’re also interested in the entire state of Texas getting to the point we are. This 911 system is very much connected throughout the state. It’s not a system where we can have a better system than someone else has. We’re just fortunate enough to be one of the earlier ones to make the upgrade, but it is really critical that the entire state complete that upgrade.”
With this bill, White said the approximate $0.50 flat rate per phone bill for emergency service fees would change to maintain and transition to the new service.
“We have three tiers, $0.75, $1.00 and $1.25,” White said. “Those local communities will get together maybe in the COG’s, they’ll pick which tier they want to be on. They can be on that tier up to two years and they can come back and revisit it.”
And White said with the new technology, cybersecurity is a talking point that has been addressed.
“It has to go through the same stress test as DPS, your local police department, and everyone else to ensure it is a secure environment,” White says.
If the bill passes, the goal would be for statewide next generation 911 coverage by 2025.
To read the bill in its entirety, click here.