New York's counties want a statewide 9-1-1 department

The 9-1-1 system has been in place in the United State since 1968. However, even at late as 1989, some areas still lacked the emergency service.

During the late 1960s, early ‘70s, the county put in its first communications system. That system worked on a low-band frequency – analog. While the analog system still worked great, Wyoming County Emergency Services Director Anthony Santoro reported, it’s a phased-out technology. The new very high frequency (VHF) system, operational this summer, is P25 compliant to allow for digital technology – Next Generation (NG) 9-1-1. 

As a way to pay for the 9-1-1 service, surcharges are imposed on “any device capable of connecting to 9-1-1.” However, fees are not collected from prepaid devices. At a recent board meeting, the Wyoming County Board of Supervisors passed Resolution 45, which states in part:

The Wyoming County Board of Supervisors supports the extension of 9-1-1 surcharges to include prepaid devices as essential to preserving current resources for 9-1-1 service.

“The way it works now is that each county provides the services that they can afford and what they believe is adequate for their respective county,” Santoro said. "By creating the statewide board it would give guidance to the entire state and we would be able to work toward the goal of every county PSAP (Public Safety Answering Point) providing the same services across the state.”

He underscored the importance of establishing a statewide dedicated 9-1-1 board to govern and give guidance on what is expected from each county to provide its residents.  

Resolution 45 pertains to the way that New York State collects and distributes the $1.20 surcharge on cell phones. This funding was intended to be spent on the operation and continual technological updates to the county PSAP (9-1-1 centers) to keep up with the ever-changing technology world.  

The new radios from this past year constituted the first phase of the process. This allowed the county to get off of the old low-band radio technology. The tower equipment and the radios that were installed in the fire service vehicles countywide are in a sense a totally different project, even though they all kind of tie together in the end.

“Unfortunately, the state has raided this fund and has used a substantial amount of the money for other things. The state on average has collected roughly $200 million each year. Up until just a few years ago, they only gave just under $10 million back to the counties.”

Each of the 62 counties had been receiving $161,290.32 annually from the 9-1-1 fees. Over the past three to four years, the NYS 9-1-1 Coordinators Association, and Sheriffs Association, along with NYSAC (New York State Association of Counties) have pushed hard to have more of the funding returned to the counties where it is to be used for PSAP operations.  

“Currently the counties are now receiving approximately $75 million of the $200 million that is collected annually. This is a huge improvement for the counties, but is still not adequate funding for the operations of our PSAPs.”

While all of the equipment for emergency services in the county will be NG ready, it will not operate as such until the state comes out with specific guidelines as to how each county should be operating and what is actually expected of each county.

“When talking about NextGen, it is estimated that it would cost $2.1 billion to bring all of the PSAPs in New York State up to NextGen standards. The state will need to be the leader in working through a plan to be able to allocate the funding for the local PSAPs. If this does not happen, counties like Wyoming will never be able to afford the upgrades that are necessary to move forward.”

County officials across the state are calling upon Governor Andrew Cuomo, the State Legislature, and the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to create a state 9-1-1 department that “best serves the public interest and supports PSAPs” in the state. Additionally, the new department would continue to allow all counties in New York to “receive 9-1-1 calls and dispatch emergency services in a manner that is most appropriately determined by those municipalities."

For a complete copy of Resolution 45 click here. 

See related: Wyoming County waiting for FCC to approve radio frequency

Related Articles
  1. 9-1-1 Safety for kids