Internet technology to enhance 911 call system

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(Host) Vermont’s enhanced 911 emergency call system will step into the Internet age in the New Year.

Officials say the state will be the first in the nation to switch to a system based on the technology of the Internet.

They say the new system has some important advantages over the existing 911 network.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports:

(Zind) The roughly 200,000 people who use Vermont’s enhanced 911 system annually probably won’t notice any difference in the way the system works beginning January 1st. As usual, a caller will simply pick up the phone and dial 911.

But for those operating the system there will be a significant difference. The calls will be coming in over an Internet based network.

Dave Serra is the Executive Director of the Vermont e911 Board.

Serra says the new system will mean more than just the caller’s voice and location can be transmitted.

For example, more than 30% of Vermont 911 calls come from cell phones. Serra says under the new system, cell phones with camera or video capabilities can be used to provide additional information.

(Serra) “So imagine coming up on an accident and not only being able to report, it but also being able to transmit to the call taker visual data that could assist a responder in responding to that accident in a proper way.”

(Zind) Serra says the new system will use a secure and reliable Internet protocol system, similar to those used for online banking.

Right now there are 10 fixed 911 call centers in Vermont. The centers are called P-SAPs: Public Safety Answering Points. Serra says Internet technology will allow the system to move P-SAPs or add new ones quickly in emergencies.

(Serra) “The software necessary to take calls could be loaded on a laptop and calls could be taken at places other than those P-SAPs. This could be important if there’s a pandemic, if there are natural disasters or even man-made disasters.”

(Zind) Serra says expanding and upgrading Vermont’s new 911 system will be cheaper and easier because it will involve purchasing software instead of buying the expensive telephone switching equipment used for the old system.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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