The Council of Governments Board of Directors today endorsed a study to dramatically expand the functionality of the region’s 9-1-1 emergency call centers to allow them to receive emergency text messages and eventually to handle video and location information.
The unanimous vote came after a briefing from the region’s emergency information officers who were joined by David Simpson, David Simpson, Chief of the FCC’s Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau, spoke to the Board about the importance of text-to-911, noting that "consumers expect to access 911 through the most popular means of communication.” Simpson said that beginning in January 2015, wireless carriers and other “interconnected” text message providers will be required by FCC rules to support text-to-911 within six months of a request for the service from a 911 call center.
Simpson noted the Board’s plans for deploying the service, saying that its “forward leadership on this will provide the [the service to the] largest numbers of subscribers to date…and as the Washington region is home to Gallaudet University and many people who are deaf or hard of hearing…this is critical to their emergency communications." The future of emergency communications nationwide will be furthered by the Washington Area's advancements and would be not only the largest, but the most inter-jurisdictional region in the U.S. to have text-to-9-1-1 so far and "could be used to jumpstart other areas and serve as a template," Simpson continued.
Steven Souder, Chair of the Council’s 9-1-1 Director’s Committee and Director of Public Safety Communications for Fairfax County told Board members that "the only thing about 9-1-1 that will move forward into the future of next generation 9-1-1 is the number itself. It isn't a serviceman with a toolbelt, it will be satellites and GPS."
The Board also was briefed on the overall system of interoperable emergency communications in the region by Wanda Gibson, Chairman of COG’s Chief Information Officers Committee and Chief Technology Officer for Fairfax County.
Although the COG Board usually meets at COG's offices,Wednesday's meeting was held at WMATA, as a century-old water main failure temporarily disabled COG's offices. The affected water main, on G Street NE near North Capitol Street, was originally installed in 1912. The 2014 Board Legislative Agenda and theme focus on all regional infrastructure systems, including emergency communications, energy, transportation and water systems.
The Board also was briefed by DC2024 Olympic Bid Chair Russ Ramsey and the group’s Vice-Chair, Ted Leonsis, owner of the Washington ice-hockey and basketball teams, at its September meeting. "This city defines America. We drive by the White House, see the Capitol and experience it everyday," said Leonsis. He and Ramsey said hosting the 2024 Olympics would reintroduce Washington as a "shining city on a hill."
"Sports play such a defining role in our cities. Building great sports experiences for a lifetime, for a generation, is vitally important," Leonsis continued. Because the official 2024 United States Olympic Committee bid cities, which also include San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boston, was only recently announced, the 2024 team was not seeking official endorsement of the bid from the Board.