Monday, December 28, 2009

Call For 911 Improvements/ today's Herald Tribune editorial

Calling for 911 improvements

Legislation would help create a seamless system
Published: Monday, December 28, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 24, 2009 at 1:48 p.m.

In a recent editorial about the latest local breakdown in 911 communications, we posed the question: What must Florida -- and its counties and cities -- do to create a seamless system designed to ensure that all emergency calls receive an appropriate, prompt response?

The first step would be to recognize key findings and implement important recommendations contained in "Florida 911: The State of Emergency." That report, funded by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, was released in August.

"Florida does not have a 911 'system,' but rather a patchwork of agencies, protocols and technologies cobbled together," the report concluded. The report criticized state funding policies that sever "the call-taking function from the inherently linked function of dispatching emergency personnel."

Another report on the 911 "system" is in the works, we recently learned from state Rep. Ken Roberson, a Republican from Port Charlotte. Roberson and Sen. Nancy Detert, a Sarasota County Republican, gained approval for an arm of the Legislature to analyze the 911 process statewide. The study, conducted by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, is scheduled to be completed next month.

If the OPPAGA report reflects the typical depth of its work, the analysis will help Roberson and Detert gain passage of identical bills they've filed (HB 355 and SB 742.)

The bills seek to sensibly authorize the use of an existing 911-access fee for certification, training and oversight of "public safety communicators." The bills would redefine the term "emergency dispatcher" to include anyone who answers, receives or transfers 911 calls -- including those who dispatch law enforcement officers, firefighters or emergency-medical personnel.

The authorization of funding for these efforts will be vital; that may require increasing the fee. As well-publicized incidents in our region have shown, the inclusion of police dispatchers in statewide certification, training and oversight of the 911 system is crucial to the creation of a seamless system.

The proposed legislation, if adopted, won't prevent human error from occurring. But the Detert-Roberson proposal would lower the odds and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of emergency communications in Florida.

This story appeared in print on page A10

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my opinion? This needs to be done. I highlighted the word "oversight" because I imagine this is what the sheriff's and police chief's across the state will struggle with.