Do Public Officials Care About Public Safety?

A series of recent posts on how 911 centers around the country are struggling to keep staff. It is a hard job – you will hear bad things happen on the other end of the phone. And in general, you will be talking to people on one of the worst days in their lives. In private industry, as a first step look, people would look at increasing wages. And eventually, cities and counties are coming to that conclusion.

But the job is harder than it needs to be. These Technology Startups Help First Responders And Shorten 911 Response Times.

This is Forbes, so of course the emphasis is on business, but the one thing that stood out, and what led to the title of this post, doesn’t have anything to do with technology or business. Or not directly anyway.

It isn’t just a dispatch shortage that’s affecting 911 systems, governments have also contributed to the lack of updated 911 systems. In March 2018, the Rhode Island legislature diverted its 68% of its 911 funds to balance the state budget. The Rhode Island 911 system currently lacks a global positioning system (GPS), the current system can only determine the caller’s location within three-quarters of a square mile; emergency medical dispatch and medical translation.

The FCC accused Rhode Island effectively stealing the E-911 fees. Rhode Island collects about $15 million in E-911 fees. Only about 5 and a half million go to 911 systems. You aren’t going to get much in the way of upgrades for that.

So back to my original question. Do public officials care about public safety? (And Rhode Island isn’t the only state playing games with E-911 funds.) If they did, they would not trot out the worn excuse, “our system can’t handle these new-fangled cellular telephones.” An excuse which I am still reading in stories about poor 911 response times in 2018.

The original link at top is mostly a listing of startups in the “Public Safety Industry.” There is a start up from Israel that has gotten quite a lot of press in the past month, and this article seems to want to expand the coverage to more players in that field. There are a lot.