OSWEGO, NY – More than 100 911 industry professionals gathered in the Lake Ontario Conference Center in Oswego to participate in a three-day conference. The conference began Wednesday and concluded at noon on Friday.
911coordinators from all over New York State attended training sessions, business seminars, and mingled with vendors over the three days. Senator Patty Ritchie was one of the featured speakers.
The 911 Coordinators Association holds the conference twice a year, and this spring was Oswego’s turn to host.
“It’s an opportunity to gather and talk about issues that are important to all of us, and strategize on how we might work with state and local officials to make change,” said Oswego County E911 Program Director, Mike Allen.
Allen helped put the event together and hoped the conference would help shed light on some of the issues facing 911 centers across the state.
“You always walk away with something new,” said Tom Nudo, a vendor with Intrado, a company that makes next generation 911 phones.
“Next generation 911” is always the buzz word at these conferences. One of the goals of any 911 coordinator is to make sure the 911 center is up to date with the latest technology to better service their communities.
Allen calls 911 an “essential service.”
Most people would tend to agree with this, however in New York State there isn’t a lot of funding for 911 centers.
“If you were to speak with anyone in this industry,” Allen said, “the number one concern that we have is the 911 wireless surcharge.”
In Oswego County, the 911 surcharge is $1.20 a month.
All this money from all over the state adds up to millions of dollars. The problem is that money doesn’t always make it back to 911 centers, and that makes it difficult to keep up with the next generation 911 technology.
“The intent of the surcharge was to keep 911 centers current in technology that allows them to accept a wireless call,” Allen explained.
Oswego County is currently in the middle of a major overhaul of the 911 system. There will be a completely new infrastructure, including a new radio system. The improvements will also connect Oswego County with Onondaga, Cayuga, Madison, and Cortland counties. This will improve ability of emergency services to respond.
There are opportunities for grants, and Governor Cuomo announced Thursday a $9 million grant for county emergency call centers. Oswego County will receive $836,009 of this funding.
Even with the upgrades there is still more that can be done to make 911 centers more efficient and up to date.
For example, “There is no 911 center in New York State you can send a text message to,” said Allen.
Obtaining this technology is a future goal.
Allen encourages people to talk to their state and local legislators to keep them in the loop about the lack of 911 funding.
Senator Patty Ritchie is currently co-sponsoring a bill that proposes a change to that funding mechanism.
Even though budget and funding talks comprised a large portion of the conference, it wasn’t the sole purpose for attending.
Coordinators also participated in an eight-hour course on effective communications in a 911 center. There were also designated times for coordinators to meet and greet with different vendors.
“We use this opportunity to introduce ourselves to these folks, see how they’re doing and what’s the next product down the line,” said Allen.