What Can We Do?
First, operators can educate themselves on 9-1-1 differences and what their agency uses. NENA's website has information explaining Basic and Enhanced 9-1-1 and the various wireless phases. Knowing what your system is capable of can assist you in making decisions. .
Second, educate your callers. Let them know the capabilities of their telephonic choice. Explain there is a difference between a landline and a cell phone when you dial 9-1-1. This education might save their lives one day. And, hopefully, they will pass this information to their friends and family making the time you took to educate them even more valuable.
Third, educate yourself in regard to your personal phone choices and their 9-1-1 capability. Ask your provider. Many have this information on their web sites. NENA lists some providers, including links to their sites. Be especially careful with VoIP phone systems, which can be either automatic or nomadic. Nomadic is like a landline, so when you travel, your registration address is the one your VoIP technology will use to route you to emergency services. Once you get this information let your family, friends, babysitter, anyone who might call 9-1-1 from your phone know its capabilities. Keep the local police number handy. As we all know firsthand, 9-1-1 is not infallible.
Fourth, support E9-1-1 legislation. Stay current reference legislative decisions being made that affect not only your job, but also your personal safety.
So, now what?
Here are a few more numbers to mull over. Although twenty states have 100 percent of their counties E9-1-1 capable, Alaska (54.14%) and Nevada (47.06%), for example, are still way below that. Also, "capable" does not mean "implemented." It just means they have the ability to use E9-1-1, not that they are using it. Fourteen states have 100% of their population with some Phase II (wireless) coverage, but Hawaii (11.03%) and Wyoming (28.18%) fall behind. America is an extremely mobile society. When the unexpected happens and you need help, or you are the helper, a failure in the degree of 9-1-1 technology can be tragic. Harris stated during the Virginia Tech shootings; students had access to their cell phones. Having grown up in a generation where text messaging is more popular than telephone conversations, many students wondered why they couldn't use text messages with 9-1-1. They could have informed first responders of the status of the emergency without the danger of talking on the phone. Why couldn't they use this technology to ask for help? Because it isn't available. Moreland sums this up, "We need to flow with the change. We're not going to stop the next 9-1-1 generation, whatever it is. We're going to have to change."