OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – A legislative study held at the Oklahoma State Capitol Tuesday to address the challenges facing local communities providing 9-1-1 emergency services to both urban and rural areas of the state. The study was requested by Rep. Josh Cockroft and was held before the House Appropriations and Budget Committee and dozens of public safety personnel from across the state.
“After this week’s study it is apparent updates in transparency and accountability are needed in the state’s existing 9-1-1 emergency systems, and also that there is the possibility of new and better utilization of existing funds,” said Cockroft, Wanette-27 (R). “As a legislature we must look into these reforms so this basic public safety service can properly be provided. When the citizens of this state pick up the phone and dial 9-1-1, they expect an accurate, timely, quality and lifesaving service to be given no matter their location. Providing anything less is neglecting the core responsibility of the state and local government.”
During the study, lawmakers heard from public safety and 9-1-1 emergency services personnel from all across the state. Presenters advocated for proper funding, accountability, and leadership within the 9-1-1 emergency services system.
Currently Oklahoma has over 140 different dispatch centers to take and route 9-1-1 calls. These centers are funded by current fees placed upon each landline and wireless phone contract. The current fees for residential and commercial landlines for 9-1-1 services vary from three percent to up to 15 percent of the base rate. The rate for cellular devices currently sits at 50 cents per phone contract.
9-1-1 revenue streams to these centers from land line fees have reduced dramatically over the last ten years due to the decline in traditional landlines. Almost 70 percent of all 9-1-1 calls received today are from cellular devices. Urban areas see close to 85 percent of all 9-1-1 calls received come from cellular devices.
Many in the public safety and 9-1-1 emergency services community are advocating for an increase in the monthly fee to each cellular contract to help pay for the shortage of funds. Cockroft was the House author of Senate Bill 278 last year which would have increased cellular fees by 50 cents on each cellular contract. The bill was introduced in the Senate, but did not receive a vote in the House. Senate Bill 278 also included accountability and transparency measures which are supported by the 9-1-1 emergency services community and telecommunication companies and providers.
The committee heard how proper leadership from the state should be provided for new funding and reforms to be effective. “It is imperative we equip our emergency services with leadership and oversight which has historically been lacking at the state level,” Cockroft said. “Many of the challenges in accountability and funding can be addressed with proper oversight. Technology is constantly changing which will require an agency ready to adapt.”
Cockroft plans to file legislation for the upcoming legislative session to address necessary reforms. The 2016 session starts in February.
“This is not a partisan issue; this is a public safety issue,” Cockroft said. “Our local 9-1-1 emergency service centers must have the proper resources and leadership. This provides the proper resources our law enforcement officers and first responders desperately deserve, and ensures the safety and well-being of every Oklahoman; no matter where they are.”