Maryland moves to advance Next Generation 911

Transitioning 911 emergency call systems into the digital age is a work in progress nationwide. In Maryland, experts released a fourth and final report on Thursday detailing what Next Generation 911 in the state should include.

The report by the Commission to Advance Next Generation 911 Across Maryland lists several recommendations for 911 call-takers, including that:

  • They be classified as first responders
  • Mental health services for them are streamlined
  • They receive workers’ compensation for treating post-traumatic stress disorder
  • They undergo implicit bias training.

On the technical side, the report’s suggestions include the enforcement of cybersecurity standards, as well as ensuring the ability to pinpoint the location of cellphones placing emergency calls in multi-story buildings.

The commission chair, Maryland Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery County), who represents Rockville and Gaithersburg, said many of the report’s 24 recommendations will be incorporated into a half-dozen bills being introduced during the 2022 legislative session.

“We released three previous annual reports, in 2018, 2019 and 2020, that were incorporated into 11 laws that were enacted with bipartisan support. As a result of our efforts, Maryland is at the forefront nationally as we transition to NG911,” said Kagan in a news release.

Next Generation 911 is a nationwide effort to upgrade 911 systems, which were originally built using analog, to a digital or Internet Protocol (IP)-based system.

Its implementation of across the country is happening independently by jurisdiction, according to David F. Snyder, chair of the National Capital Region Emergency Preparedness Council.

He said the absence of funding makes it difficult to predict when the upgraded system might be activated in the area. There also are supply chain issues.

“Despite this, the jurisdictions are continuing to move forward the best that they can,” Snyder said.

The amount needed nationwide for Next Generation 911 is estimated to be $15 billion. The Biden administration’s Build Back Better bill initially included roughly $10 billion for the initiative, but it was whittled down to roughly $500 million.

“While everybody thinks it’s great to get some money, it’s well below what’s needed for a true national movement to a 911 system that will be very precise on geographic locations, and also be able to carry video and other modern telecommunications,” Snyder said.

Kristi King

Kristi King is a veteran reporter who has been working in the WTOP newsroom since 1990. She covers everything from breaking news to consumer concerns and the latest medical developments.

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