State ready to upgrade 9-1-1 system for cellphones


August 9th, 2011 by Ric Hanson

The Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division (HSEMD) is in the process of moving the state’s 9-1-1 system for cellphones to the next level. Spokesman John Benson, says it’s what they call “next generation” technology. He says the system is a dedicated I-P network that will deliver 9-1-1 calls and moves ahead from what he says is a system that was first developed in the 1960’s. Benson says the new system will allow cellphone users to take advantage of all the features on their phone.

Benson says it gives the ability to text for help from 9-1-1, or send video or other information from handheld devices that can then be sent to first responders. Benson says texting might be the best option in some cases where heavy cell use by regular calls makes it tough to get through.

He says texting is sent in short bursts, and sometimes when someone can’t use a voice line, they can send a text, as it goes down another pathway. Benson says the texting has been tested for 9-1-1 calls in Black Hawk County and they are in the process of upgrading it for use statewide.

Benson says the project will cost about two-point-seven million dollars, which about half coming from a federal grant and the rest from the 9-1-1 surcharge on phones. Benson says it will take about 18 months to get the system built and then running. Iowa is one of 30 states that received federal funding to work on the upgrade.

(Radio Iowa)