States Seek a 21st-Century Upgrade to 911 Infrastructures


As vital as 911 systems are to a city and its citizens, aging systems and vulnerabilities to attack are seemingly putting 911 call centers on shaky ground.

Most recently, Portland, Ore., was called out by investigators in a report that found that its Bureau of Emergency Communications was misreporting hold times for callers and excluding the longest waits from its statistics. While the national standard is to have 90 percent of calls answered within 10 seconds, the report found that just 30 percent of calls were being answered within that time limit.

The bureau has been bogged down for years by crippling staff shortages and outdated infrastructure. But as a result of the report, it’s moving to implement technological advancements, putting in place a new system that will allow operators to see where a call is coming from before they answer. This new ability will hopefully prevent operators from answering multiple calls about the same emergency, streamlining their answering process.

"The new system will let us see a cluster of calls," Laureen Paulsen with the Bureau of Emergency Communications, tells KATU News. "We can see once we answer the call where it’s coming from but we can't see where the calls that are behind it might be coming from."

While Portland is the latest to make headlines about slipping 911 infrastructures, cities across the country are experiencing similar issues. Dallas, for example, is in the midst of upgrading to a Next Generation 911 system after facing criticism and staffing shortages earlier this year. The city has invested nearly $10 million in technology and software that aims to address these issues and cut wait times for callers, NBC reports.


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