Back in 2005, Stephens County voters rejected E-911 as being too expensive. On Tuesday December 14th, Stephens County voters will get another chance to vote on E-911 again. This time, there are two proposals on the ballot. The first would raise the current 911 fee on landline telephones from the current rate of five (5) percent to as much as fifteen (15) percent. In most cases the fee assessed on landlines would be around $1.50 per month. The second proposal on the ballot would add $.50 per month to every cell phone. The cell phone fee would go to purchasing equipment to help first responders find a cell phone caller’s exact location.
More and more people are giving up landlines and using a cell phone exclusively, which presents a problem for law enforcement in locating them when they make a 911 call. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, one out of five( about 65 million) households have abandoned their land line phones for cell phones. And those ‘smart cell phones’ are smarter than you think- they can tell law enforcement/emergency responders your location.
Over two thirds of the cell phones in use today have the capability of providing your exact location to law enforcement. The reason is because in 2007, the FCC mandated cell phones have the capability of providing Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP) the location of the phone within 300 meters 95% of the time.
According to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, "We all know that people are relying on cell phones for more and more of their calls, including calls to 911. The advances in wireless technology allow people to call for help more quickly and from more remote places than ever before. We need to make sure that our location accuracy requirements keep pace with those changes."
James Barbour, the president of the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), a non-profit group dedicated to emergency communications issues praises the FCC’s mandate to cell phone manufacturers. "We live in a world of rapidly changing communications in which consumers increasingly rely on their wireless device," Barbour said. "However, when a caller is unable to describe their location during an emergency, the ability of a 9-1-1 call taker to provide help is often only as good as the location information provided with the call.”
But not everyone thinks E-911 is a good thing. Some believe it is an invasion of our privacy. James Dempsey from the Center for Democracy and Technology says, "Your cell phone has become an ankle bracelet. Therefore we are urging the standard for government access be increased to a full probable cause standard. Law enforcement agencies have to have suspicion to believe that the person they are targeting is engaged in criminal activity."
Stephens County is the largest county in Oklahoma without Enhanced 911 service. It’s time that was corrected. Here are the reasons E-911 should be approved this time around:
First, E-911 would some of the cheapest insurance you will ever buy. It will cost a mere .50 per cell phone per month. The fee for E-911 service for landline phones will be $1.50 per month/per phone, so the cost is minimal. That’s a small investment for peace of mind for your family’s safety. As Representative Dennis Johnson, (R-Duncan) said, “If I had a car wreck and were in a ditch, I would want law enforcement and first responders to be able to find me.”
Second, E-911 has been mandated by the Oklahoma State legislature. Every county in the state must have it in place by 2012 or the state will implement it for them. Stephens County doesn’t need state government bureaucrats telling us how to run our business, so county commissioners and county elected officials should have this on the front burner and get it accomplished before the state comes in.
A great deal has changed since the 2005 vote, including an increasing need for first responders to find and locate people who call 911 by cell phone. Technology advances and changing consumer habits have made E-911 a definite need in the county. I urge you to vote Yes on December 14th for Enhanced-911 service for Stephens County.