Today, 911 calls are more likely to be initiated by a cell phone than a land line. However, your call for help may be routed by a cell tower to a dispatch center that cannot send immediate help.
Once it is realized the call has been misdirected, it is transferred to a different dispatch center and the cry for help starts all over again. This happens thousands of times a year in Broward County.
Broward County has ten separate centers, running independently with differing operating procedures, that dont talk to each other, and with widely varying financial tolerance for upgrades. We know we can do better.
The Implementation Board (I-Board) is made up of 28 city managers as well as representatives of the fire and police chiefs associations, the Broward Sheriff Office and the county. The Broward County Consolidated Communications Committee and the prior feasibility study done by the Office of Communications Technology, concluded consolidation of 911 communications will save lives, improve response times and finally implement what the voters demanded a decade ago: Closest unit response for medical emergencies.
Aside from the improvement to public safety, there are projected savings of $100 million county-wide over the next decade, efficiencies gained by reducing 10 centers to three, and significant cost savings for projected Next Generation 911 upgrades.
The I-Board overwhelmingly recommended that consolidated 911 communications be treated as a regional service so we can secure long-term funding stability and predictability. We cannot risk one or more cities unable to contribute due to financial distress. For this and other reasons, cities representing 87 percent of Broward Countys population asked the county to take a leadership role and fund this as a regional service.
However, discounting the request of cities and the thoughtful recommendations of the I-Board, some on the county commission say they will refuse to vote for a single, predictable and stable funding stream through ad valorem taxes like they do for libraries, parks and busses.
The issue really is, do residents pay the same dollars to a city which may not forward the check for 911 service, or does the county make sure we always have 911 services funded?
If we fail, response times will be delayed every hour of every day due to misdirected cell phone 911 calls. This alone makes failure unacceptable. We each decide our own legacy and what role we play in the pace of progress.
Mike Ryan, mayor, Sunrise.