Grant expected to benefit 911 system

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Marion County Emergency Management logo from its website.

The State of Iowa has been awarded a $2.5 million grant to make improvements to its 911 system.

The grant, awarded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), is to be used to upgrade equipment and operations in 911 call centers. Iowa is one of 33 states receiving the grant.

“Yes it will certainly benefit us locally,” Marion County Emergency Management Coordinator Jeff Anderson said. “The awarded funds will be used to supplement the ongoing costs of merging the wireless and wireline 911 networks into a single network.  That will reduce the amount of Iowa-borne 911 surcharge dollars going into that project, thus increasing the amount of surcharge funds being returned to the local 911 service boards. I don’t have any idea yet how much of an increase we will see, however it will certainly be a good thing.”

This technology, Next Generation 911 (NG911), is an Internet Protocol (IP)-based system that allows for seamless and automatic rerouting and transfer of wireless 911 calls in the case of an outage, maintenance, or a call center that is overwhelmed due to high call volume. NG911 also increases the data associated with the call, such as more accurate caller location or telematics from smart cars, as well as other internet-based devices that can reach 911.

“The infrastructure we’re putting in place will modernize the current 911 system and will allow the state’s 911 emergency call centers to share their call processing equipment across jurisdictions, relieving financial costs at the local level,” said Blake DeRouchey, the State of Iowa’s 911 Program Manager.

Iowa has been working for several years to upgrade its 911 network to support the use of NG911 and the funding from this grant award will be used for a portion of this work.

Iowa is considered an early adopter and leader in NG911 technology and was among the first states to offer text-to-911.