WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Three U.S. senators are calling for improved 911 service in the wake of the shooting death of a Maine motorist near the Pennsylvania-Maryland border.
Timothy Davison, 28, Poland, Maine, was shot and killed at 2:10 a.m. on Jan. 4 in median of Interstate 81 in Pennsylvania after his 911 call was reportedly dropped.
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa.; Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Angus King, I-Maine, last week asked for an update of National Telecommunications & Information Administration's plan to support states' efforts to migrate to the Next Generation 911.
"It is deeply concerning that Mr. Davison's initial call to 911, received by a Maryland dispatcher, was reportedly dropped as he crossed state lines," said the senators' letter to NTIA Administrator Lawrence Strickling. "A subsequent call placed by Mr. Davison was rerouted to a Pennsylvania dispatcher. This critical lapse in communication may have denied Mr. Davison life-saving instruction and prevented him from relaying information that could have led to the perpetrator's identification, which to this day remains an unsolved mystery."
Soon after Davison's death, Casey called on the Federal Communications Commission to investigate the dropped call. The agency reported in April that it did not have sufficient information to determine why the call was dropped.
"A 911 call is no different than a regular call," said David Donohue, director of the Franklin County Department of Emergency Services. "Calls do get dropped. It was coincidental crossing the state line."
A wireless call usually transitions seamlessly when switched from one tower to another tower, he said.
Davison was on his way home after visiting relatives in Florida when he called 911 to say he was being pursued. The call was dropped, and he called 911 again after his vehicle had been run off the road.
The senators said the nation's "present 911 system relies on analog infrastructure that struggles to integrate newer, digital technologies. The failure to modernize our 911 system has left it vulnerable to dropped and misdirected calls, which can sometimes lead to tragic consequences. Modern technologies, such as those which comprise Next Generation 911, would enhance emergency communications by facilitating interoperability and improving connections between 911 call centers."
Updates of the 911 systems in Franklin County and Washington County, Md., were implemented within months of each other, according to Donohue. Franklin County spent
"We are a digital system," Donohue said. "The technology is already there."
Franklin County 18 months ago validated its 911 global positioning system that allows first responders to locate the origin of a wireless call, Donohue said. The GPS checked out for the most part. Vendors that were not so accurate were notified.
The county has procedures in place to handle overflow problems. When the Adams County dispatch center took a direct lightning hit in July, Franklin County dispatchers assisted with its 911 load.
Police have said the I-81 shooting was random. The pursuing vehicle was a 1993 to 1997 dark blue Ford Ranger pickup truck, according to police.
Davison's family and Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers have offered rewards for information about his death.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2014 - Public Opinion, Chambersburg, Pa.