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Bolster 911 calls with new technology, say state’s counties

ALBANY — Counties statewide said Monday that the emergency 911 telephone service needs its first major overhaul in 50 years to deal with increasing numbers of calls and an aging technology.

Concerns include a lack of ability to pinpoint the location of a caller who is using a cellular phone and the inability of many local systems to read text messages, according to the New York State Association of Counties. NYSAC said the Federal Communications Commission estimated the cost for upgrades would be $2.2 billion over 10 years.

“In order to meet the expectations of the millions of New Yorkers who are calling and texting 9-1-1 from their cellphone, we need to upgrade our systems,” said Stephen J. Acquario, executive director of the New York State Association of Counties.

The federal government is requiring a more reliable and efficient system it calls Next Gen 9-1-1, or NG911, according to NYSAC. The state funds most local emergency 911 systems that are operated primarily by counties.

“Unless and until counties have access to a dedicated revenue stream to help pay for the system upgrades and new communications equipment, NG911 will be out of reach for many areas of the state.”

The lobbying group said its “Rescuing 911” campaign to get funding in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s 2017-18 budget proposal in January is supported by county executives, sheriffs, local political leaders and first responders, all of whom have substantial influence in the state legislature.

“Ensuring our first responders have access to the tools and resources they need to do their jobs has been and will continue to be a top priority for this administration,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi.

Last week Cuomo announced $10 million in grants were sent to local governments statewide to fund improvements to the 911 response and dispatch services.


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