Imagine calling “911” and the call taker never answered, or the help they sent never responded to an emergency call. Unthinkable, of course.
Recently the Broward police and fire chiefs associations issued a joint statement highlighting how the consolidated E911 system is currently managed by county employees lacking vital E911 operational experience. The chiefs jointly called for changes. We should heed their “E-call” and professionalize the most important public safety system in the county.
In 2002, the voters of Broward County overwhelmingly supported a Charter Amendment establishing a county-funded communications infrastructure for fire and emergency medical services. Over the next decade, important steps toward interoperability were taken, but we still had 10 independent E911 dispatch centers across Broward County that resulted in unacceptable delays in emergency call handling.
Consolidation of the E911 system finally began in 2014. Since then, there have been some landmark successes.
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Whatever strengths the county employees may have in managing technology, the E911 system is currently being governed by those who lack the operational expertise to make sound operational recommendations and decisions.
First, we need an independent Office of the Director of Public Safety Communications who reports to the County Commission. This office would absorb the functions currently being handled by the county administration. And, there must be a permanent advisory council populated predominantly by public safety professionals and stakeholders.
As we did in 2002, the Broward County Charter should be further amended to ensure a professional, integrated and operationally sound regional public safety communications system for years to come.
Mike Ryan, vice chair, Broward County Consolidated Communications Committee, Fort Lauderdale