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An Emergency Communications Safety Net: Integrating 911 and Other Services

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Congressional rept.

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The present capability and future effectiveness of Americas network of emergency telecommunications services are among the homeland security issues under review by Congress and other entities. Emergency calls 911 on both wireline landline and wireless networks are considered by many to be part of this network. The 911 Commission recommended that 911 call centers be included in planning for emergency responses. As technologies that can support 911 improve, many are seeing the possibility of integrating 911 into a wider safety net of emergency communications and alerts. Without robust support and back-up, 911 systems can be overwhelmed or rendered useless, as occurred in many locations after Hurricane Katrina struck Gulf Coast communities on August 29, 2005. One of the intents of Congress in passing the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999 P.L. 106-81, and of the Federal Communications Commission FCC in implementing the act, is to make 911 technology universally available throughout the United States. A 2002 report, known as the Hatfield Report, recognized the need to upgrade 911 infrastructure nationwide, discussed some of the difficulties encountered, and recommended the creation of a 911 bureau at the Executive level. Congress addressed recommendations from the Hatfield Report with provisions that were passed in the ENHANCE 911 Act of 2004 P.L. 108-494. This legislation creates a five-year federal program for 911 implementation and coordination and authorizes funds for a matching grant program. Appropriations for the program have yet to be allocated although other funding is available through programs within the Department of Transportation. This report reviews key points about the implementation of 911 and reviews some of the ways in which it might be integrated with existing or envisioned networks or services. It will be updated.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Civil Defense
  • Voice Communications

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