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Federal Program Offers Legislative Guidance for NG 9-1-1 (11-19-12)
By Michelle Zilis
As states and local agencies prepare for next-generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1), officials are discovering that current laws don’t address the deployment of new 9-1-1 technologies. In response, the National 9-1-1 Program released a document to help implement NG 9-1-1 by offering legislative language guidelines that still have enough flexibility to allow each state to address its individual challenges.

“Current laws don’t enable the deployment of new technology or allow for the necessary level of coordination and collaboration” needed among stakeholders, said Laurie Flaherty, coordinator of the National 9-1-1 Program, during a webinar Nov. 13 that introduced the document.

While current 9-1-1 laws vary dramatically among states and each state faces its own unique challenges, the transition to NG 9-1-1 will present significant challenges to all states, Flaherty said.

The National 9-1-1 Program, housed within the Office of Emergency Medical Services at the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “seeks to ensure a smooth, reliable and cost-effective transition to a 9-1-1 system that takes advantages of new communications technologies to enhance public safety nationwide,” the agency’s website states. “Its mission is to provide federal leadership and coordination in supporting and promoting optimal 9-1-1 service.”

With that in mind, the National 9-1-1 Program released the Guidelines for State 9-1-1 Legislative Language document (link to http://911.gov/pdf/ModelNG911legis-110812.pdf). The document is designed not as an end-to-end law, but rather an inventory of options that can be used or adapted by each state, Flaherty said.

The National 9-1-1 Office was originally established with the passage of the ENHANCE 911 Act in December 2004. The authority for the office expired in September of 2009 and was re-established with the enactment of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 in February and renamed the National 9-1-1 Program, Flaherty said.

The agency began assessing current 9-1-1 laws in September 2010. After examining current 9-1-1 statutes and conducting interviews to understand how NG 9-1-1 will affect current laws, the office identified key issue areas. In March 2011, 20 stakeholders had the opportunity to offer input, which was later worked into the finalized document.

The document identifies five key issue areas:

1. The statewide 9-1-1 governance structure, which addresses 9-1-1 as an essential government service and identifies the state office and coordinator’s roles, as well as advisory roles and regional/local authorities roles;

2. The role of the state 9-1-1 office, which covers planning and coordinating, operational issues, regulatory roles, contract authority, data collection and grants;

3. 9-1-1 funding, addressing revenue collection, fund distributions, oversight and reporting;

4. Privacy, confidentiality and security, specifically relating to the storage and sharing of data; and

5. Liability issues.

All five issue areas are addressed with examples for legislative language, along with listing references and background information for each example. “This guideline legislation document represents examples of ‘ideal’ yet ‘generic’ legislation language,” the document says.

Earlier this year the National 9-1-1 Program partnered with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) to create an online searchable database of 9-1-1 legislation in all 50 states and D.C. The database allows users to see the activity regarding 9-1-1 legislation around the country. In 2012, there were more than 300 bills relating to 9-1-1 introduced in 42 states. And at least 114 bills in 36 states have been enacted, Flaherty said.

Specifically, at least 10 states enacted legislation related to the responsibilities and membership of E9-1-1/NG 9-1-1 state boards and committees; at least three states enacted legislation requiring studies related to E9-1-1 and NG 9-1-1; at least five states enacted legislation updating the language of 9-1-1 statutes; and at least eight state legislatures enacted legislation related to prepaid wireless surcharges for 9-1-1 services, she said.

The database lets users search for 9-1-1 legislation by state, topic, keyword, year, status, bill number or sponsor. The website also compiled a list by state of all 9-1-1-related laws enacted in 2011. A similar list will be compiled for 2012 at the end of the year.

The program’s bi-monthly webinars will provide information about transitioning to NG 9-1-1 as well as case studies of early adopters. The webinars are free and open to the first 200 attendees. The next webinar will take place Jan. 24 and will feature presentations from the FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) and the Indiana Enhanced 9-1-1 board. For more information, visit www.911.org.

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