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75 Percent of US Covered by E-911 Service

75 Percent of US Covered by E-911 Service
By LongDistanceUS.com on Wednesday, June 7 2006

Over three-quarters of the USA's population now reside in areas where wireless 911 service includes delivery of the caller's call back number and location to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), a capability known as enhanced 911 (E911). This number represents an eight percent increase in Phase II deployments over statistics released by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) in December of 2005.

This still leaves about half of the nation's 3,135 counties, primarily located in rural areas, that cannot provide this critical service to their residents.

"We are pleased that the 911 community and the wireless industry continue to work together to provide this essential, life saving service to the vast majority of Americans," said NENA President David Jones, ENP. "However, it is troubling that over a third of PSAPs are still without access to Phase II E911 data, and according to a March GAO report, may never have wireless E911 capability."

The report revealed numerous facts and statistics obtained directly from the states suggesting that Phase II implementation could take four years or more in seven different states. In five additional states, it was indicated that the process may never be completed. Almost all of the respondents cited a lack of adequate funding as the main reason for the lack of a statewide wireless E911 system.

Such a lack of funding was the driving force behind the introduction and passage of the still unfunded ENHANCE 911 Act of 2004. "The public needs and deserves wireless E911 from coast to coast, regardless of where they live, work, or travel. As the GAO findings show, and we know from the testimony of many NENA members, sustainable funding for 911 is a critical issue that must be addressed if all Americans are to enjoy the benefits of a fully functional 911 system. It remains critical that Congress provide funding to implement the ENHANCE 911 Act grant program," said Jones.

To that end, on April 5th, Senators Burns and Clinton, Senate Co-Chairs of the Congressional E911 Caucus, requested that US$42 million in funding be provided in the FY 2007 budget for PSAP grants authorized by the ENHANCE 911 Act. The House Co-Chairs of the E911 Caucus, along with fourteen other Members followed suit with the same request in the House on May 19th. In their letters requesting the funding, they state that they "firmly believe that the provisions of the ENHANCE Act will save lives, thus funding for this program is an important priority."

Recent events underscore the dire need for funding expedited deployment of Phase II Wireless E911. In one unfortunate instance earlier this year, a Cincinnati Telecommunicator was left to use a phone book to track down the address of a restaurant where a shooting was reported by an onlooker via cell phone. Because the PSAP did not have the technology in place to instantly trace the location of the caller, valuable time was wasted, and the victim was not reached in time to be saved.

Just as this story shows what can happen when E911 is not available, there are many that illustrate the positive outcomes that are possible when the system is in place. On April 8th of this year, Jeff Arlofski was abducted from his Cottonwood, AZ hotel room by two men, beaten, and left in a location the victim described as "the middle of nowhere." Injured and disoriented, Mr. Arlofski dialed 911, and thanks to wireless E-911 technology, his location was identified within minutes and he was rescued a short time later.

Events such as these transpire on a regular basis all around the country with lives being saved because authorities can locate wireless 911 callers, and lives being unnecessarily lost when the technology is not available. NENA will continue to monitor the progress being made in the deployment of Phase II wireless technology and will work with all parties, from both the public and private sectors, to attain our shared goal of 100 percent Phase II deployment.

NENA published current wireless E911 statistics earlier this month, measuring the number of counties, individual PSAPs, and total population covered by Phase I and Phase II wireless location technology. Phase I includes delivery of the caller's phone number and the cell tower transmitting the 911 call. Phase II includes delivery of the caller's location and phone number.

The statistics indicate that 74 percent of counties contain PSAPs receiving Phase I calls while 50 percent of counties have PSAPs accepting Phase II calls. The percentages for individual PSAPs are slightly improved from previous statistics with 84 percent receiving Phase I calls and 65 percent Phase II capable. The PSAP statistics translate to 88 percent of the US population covered by Phase I and 76 percent covered by Phase II enabled PSAPs. As the numbers suggest, the greater percentage of population covered compared to the percentage of PSAPs with Phase I and Phase II technology in place indicates that the overwhelming amount of deployments are occurring in more densely populated regions and that rural areas continue to struggle to upgrade their E911 capabilities.

These figures were obtained as part of the recently concluded Wireless Implementation Project sponsored by the US Department of Transportation, the final report of which is due out in the coming months.

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