Law enforcement, fire, EMS, and 9-1-1 professionals handle over 240 million emergency 9-1-1 calls per year. Our 9-1-1 system is the most critical of critical infrastructure — relied upon nationwide every day to obtain assistance in a variety of life-or-death situations. Unfortunately, 9-1-1 networks across the United States have not kept up with advances in communications technology and, in large part, are based upon technology dating back to the 1960s and limited to voice calls and some texting.

The focus on improving our nation’s infrastructure provides a unique opportunity for Congress to make a once-in-a-generation investment to modernize our 9-1-1 systems to Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG 9-1-1). NG 9-1-1 will enable Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs) to receive a variety of multimedia (photos, videos) and other data from 9-1-1 callers and seamlessly share this information with other ECCs and responding fire, EMS, and law enforcement officials in the field. This will make emergency responses faster and more efficient and make public safety professionals and the communities they serve safer. Simply put, NG 9-1-1 will save lives.

This is why a broad coalition of the nation’s major national public safety associations — the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association, the Major County Sheriffs of America, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, the National Association of State EMS Officials, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International — strongly supports the NG9-1-1 legislation recently introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

This legislation would provide $15 billion for a one-time, nationwide effort to modernize 9-1-1. The bill would preserve the autonomy of state and local public safety agencies over 9-1-1 while significantly benefitting and meeting the expectations of the citizens they serve across rural, suburban, and urban areas throughout the country. Importantly, a major goal of the bill is to ensure seamless interoperability among ECCs and police, fire, and EMS agencies to save precious minutes and ensure the most effective and safest emergency response. Furthermore, the bill includes vital cybersecurity measures to help public safety agencies protect 9 1 1 networks from cyber-attacks.

The nation’s public safety leadership is proud to support this NG 9-1-1 legislation, which has garnered bipartisan support. We urge Congress to ensure this legislation is preserved and included in any infrastructure package for the benefit of the public and our nation’s first responders. The time to act is now.

On behalf of the Public Safety Next Generation 9-1-1 Coalition, we invite all stakeholders to support this effort.

The Public Safety Next Generation 9-1-1 Coalition consists of diverse stakeholders from national public safety associations representing law enforcement, fire, EMS, and 9-1-1 professionals who know best what is needed to modernize 9-1-1 and improve emergency response. The Coalition is solely motivated by what is needed by public safety professionals as they carry out their missions to save and protect the public every day. Our approach is to secure the best outcome for public safety professionals and the communities they serve as they carry out their life-saving missions.

Paul Fitzgerald is sheriff of Story County, Iowa, and former president of the National Sheriffs’ Association; Ken Stuebing is Fire Chief of Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada; Kevin McGinnis is paramedic chief (Ret) Hallowell, Maine, National Association of State EMS Officials; Derek Poarch is executive director of APCO International and retired Director of Public Safety for the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and former Chief – Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau at the FCC.

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