HD93 - Enhanced Emergency Telecommunications Systems

Executive Summary:
"911 is the three digit telephone number that has been designated as the "Universal Emergency Number" for public use throughout the United States to request emergency assistance. It is intended as a nationwide telephone number giving the public directed access to a public safety answering point (PSAP) that will be responsible for taking the emergency call and dispatching emergency service personnel. The widely acknowledged advantages of a single, three-digit, nationally recognized emergency number include:

• It can be dialed quickly;

• It is easy to remember; and

• It is the same no matter where you are, or which public safety entity you need, i.e., police, fire, and/or ambulance.

There are currently two levels of emergency telecommunications service, basic and enhanced. In its basic form, PSAP attendants who receive a 911 call must gather all the necessary information about the nature and location of the emergency by questioning the caller. In its enhanced form, the emergency call is routed to the most appropriate PSAP. and in addition to the voice connection, the caller's telephone number and location, as well as which fire, police, and/or medical service is closest to the caller are transmitted to the PSAP. Enhanced 911 (E-911) emergency telecommunications systems permit more efficient and speedy response by emergency service personnel, thereby increasing the probability that lives and/or property will be saved.

House Joint Resolution 215 (1998) directed the Virginia State Crime Commission to make recommendations for the most efficient and cost effective manner to first improve upon, and then manage and deliver, wireline and wireless E-911 services to Virginia's citizenry. Additionally, the Virginia General Assembly asked that the Crime Commission comment on ways to promote the use of #77 among citizens for non-emergency services. In response to this study mandate, the Crime Commission undertook a variety of research, including a literature review, structured interviews, and survey work, among other things.

The options for legislative consideration discussed below proceed from a basic assumption: that improved public safety remains an important objective of Virginia State and local governments. As Virginia prepares to face increasingly complex challenges in the area of emergency telecommunications generally, planning, communication, and coordination become increasingly critical. By endorsing the following options for legislative consideration, the Commonwealth will be able to more efficiently and effectively deliver enhanced emergency telecommunications services to the citizens of Virginia. Further, these moves will help to establish Virginia as the nationwide leader in the provision of these services.