Alabama updating 911 system with newer technology

This massive overall could cost the department anywhere from $50 million to $60 million.

Posted: Jun 7, 2019 6:18 PM
Updated: Jun 7, 2019 6:42 PM

Alabama is updating its 911 system to make you safer wherever you live.

Alabamians will soon be able to text messages and videos to emergency dispatchers. When you make a 911 call right now, your local dispatcher is relying on systems that have been used since the 1960s.

One man, Dennis Wright, lives in Marshall County, near the DeKalb County line. He says when emergency strikes, sometimes there's confusion on who should respond.

"Sometimes we dial 911, they'll dispatch you to DeKalb County, and then they have to transfer you back to the local place close to you, as far as fire departments, police departments, whatever," said Wright. "When you have an emergency, you have an emergency and you don't need to kill extra time."

New upgrades to the 911 system across the state promise to cut that response time down, by upgrading to an IP-based system and helping call centers across the state communicate faster.

Leah Missildine is the director of the Alabama 911 board. She says the upgrades will ensure calls are routed to the most precise center.

"Basically, we're doing a complete technological lift of what 911 can do, and what they can receive," she said.

Dispatchers can work from just about anywhere, in the event there's an emergency at the 911 center. Some of the biggest improvements the public will see over the next 18 months are the ability to send texts, pictures and videos to 911 with operators being able to text back and newer technology like personal health monitors, crash data in cars and home alarm systems that can send data to dispatch centers.

"It's all sorts of data into the 911 system, whereas in the past, it's just been void," Missildine said.

So far, no North Alabama districts have made the switch, but Missildine says there haven't been any issues for the 16 counties that have. She says soon more states will follow suit, with Alabama leading the way.

"In the coming 5 to 10 years, you'll see everybody moving in this direction," she said.

This massive overall could cost the department anywhere from $50 million to $60 million, but Alabamians have already paid the cost. The 911 department is funded with a less than $2 fee when people purchase phones or make phone payments.

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