By Mike Ryan
We have an opportunity this coming fiscal year to move forward on one of the most significant improvements to public safety in decades AND conserve taxpayer resources for the future – consolidate E911 Communications.
This is not a new or novel idea … just one that has been way too slow to implement.
Twelve Years Later and Still No Consolidation
In 2001, the Broward County Board of County Commissioners and the Broward County Charter Review Commission paid for a lengthy study known as the “Tri-Data Report”.
The study recommended, and voters later demanded, development of the infrastructure for closest unit response in medical emergencies.
Amazingly, 12 years ago, this study also recommended consolidation of E911 communications and dispatch services — for both police and fire rescue services — to improve safety, save lives and conserve precious taxpayer resources.
Frustratingly, more than a decade later, implementation is far from certain because some members of the County Commission will not support a regional funding model as my previous story discussed.
Implementation Advisory Board Issues Report Today
Today, the Broward County Consolidated Communications Implementation Advisory Board, tasked by the County Commission with making implementation recommendations, issued their Final Report linked here.
The Recommendations: Consolidate E911 services now and implement a regional funding model that is stable and predictable to ensure E911 is protected long term.
The Implementation Board
The Implementation Board (“I-Board”) was made up of 28 City Managers as well as representatives of the Fire Chiefs and Police Chiefs Associations, BSO and the County. Like the 22 members of the predecessor Broward County Consolidated Communications Committee, the I-Board is a cross-representation of our county.
According to the prior feasibility study, the Consolidated Communications Committee and now the I-Board, consolidation of 911 communications will improve responses times and finally implement what the voters demanded a decade ago – closest unit response for medical emergencies — but there are some important financial impacts:
- Projected savings county-wide of $100,000,000 over the next decade;
- Projected efficiencies reducing 10 centers to three;
- Significant cost savings for projected Next Generation 911 upgrades.
E911 Should Be Implemented and Protected as a Regional Service
The I-Board overwhelmingly recommended consolidated 911 communications be treated like a true, regional service to secure long term stability and funding predictability.
We all travel across multiple municipal boundaries each day.
But what happens if we have to rely on each participating municipality to send a check every October 1, and one won’t pay its share? Or two won’t pay? Or more?
We all start paying more than our fair share, and eventually the entire 911 system falls apart.
As a result, municipalities representing 87% of the Broward County’s population asked the County to take a leadership role and fund this as a regional service.
That’s more than the percentage of residents who demanded a decade ago that the County Commission implement the infrastructure to guarantee closest unit response for medical emergencies – and it is still isn’t done … yet.
What Happens If We Fail To Consolidate?
Failure to consolidate means this:
- The County Commission, which is obligated to fund ALL infrastructure including upgrades, will pay significantly more for upgrades to 10 (or more) dispatch sites.
- We lose the expected $100,000,000 in savings over the next decade.
- We continue to fund too many dispatch sites throughout the county.
Some current sites are already a problem. Some are not sufficiently hurricane strong, jeopardizing residents during and after storms.
But most importantly, every hour of every day response times will be delayed due “misdirected” cell phone E911 calls. This alone makes our collective failure unacceptable.
Some on the County Commission have said they will not support a true regional funding approach — saying they will refuse to vote for a single, predictable and stable funding stream through the County ad valorem taxes for county-wide public safety, like we have for libraries, parks and busses.
I say … the time for leadership is now. We need the County Commission to vote in favor of this model.
Let’s move forward to implement what voters demanded a decade ago, which a feasibility study said will improve service and conserve taxpayer resources, which two separate and independent committees tasked by the County Commission have ratified, and which municipalities representing 87 percent of the county’s population have requested – treat this as a true Regional Service, develop stable funding and finish the project voters demanded a decade ago.
(Mike Ryan is the mayor of Sunrise. Broward County Consolidate Communications Committee was co-chaired by Broward County Commissioner Lois Wexler and Mayor Ryan.)