BY MIKE RYAN
We are closer than ever to implementing the most significant improvement to public safety in decades – consolidation of our E911 call-handling and dispatch countywide.
Refresher — Why You MUST care?
A 911 call for help, whether from a child’s bedroom or a kitchen, is far more likely to be made from a cell phone than a land line. However, that cell phone 911 call may be routed by a tower to a dispatch center that cannot send help immediately.
Thousands of 911 calls are “mis-directed” each year in Broward County. After taking critical information and once realized, the 911 call is then transferred to another center. Emergency help is delayed. Consolidating 911 centers will minimize or eliminate this unnecessary and preventable delay.
In addition, we have 10 separate centers in the County, running independently with differing operating procedures, that don’t “talk” to each other, and which have widely varying financial tolerance for upgrades. We know we can do better.
The Implementation Board
The Implementation Board (“I-Board”) is 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.
The I-Board issued a Draft Report on November 15, 2012.
According to the prior feasibility study, the Consolidated Communications Committee and now the I-Board, consolidation of 911 communications will not only save lives, 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 3 (New York City has 1 center for all 5 boroughs; Broward County has 10!);
- Significant cost savings for projected Next Generation 911 upgrades.
The I-Board overwhelmingly recommended consolidated 911 communications be treated like a true, regional service to secure long term stability and funding predictability. Why? Simple.
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 says it can’t … or won’t? What if two or more can’t, or won’t? 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?
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 physical dispatch sites.
Some sites 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 “mis-directed” cell phone E911 calls. This alone makes our collective failure unacceptable.
A problem erupted this week. Discounting the request of cities representing 87% of Broward County’s population and the thoughtful recommendations of the I-Board, some on the County Commission say 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 they do for libraries, parks and busses.
The issue really is, do residents pay to a municipality which may not forward the check for communications, or does the County make sure we ALWAYS have 911 services funded?
To the I-Board, I say : Stand behind your consensus recommendations and what the cities representing 87% of the 1,800,000 residents, thousands of businesses and tens of millions of visitors of Broward County requested. Finish the performance metrics, plan for the transition, and outline all operational and governance structure recommendations.
Then, it will be left to five people on County Commission to decide. We each decide our own legacy and what role we play in the pace of progress.
(Broward County Consolidate Communications Committee was co-chaired by Broward County Commissioner Lois Wexler and Mayor Mike Ryan of Sunrise.)