The Metropolitan King County Council has unanimously approved a regional effort to upgrade and modernize the county’s emergency communications system. Known as E911, the system plays a vital role in sending emergency services to residents of Eastside communities in suburban and rural King County.
King County’s regional E-911 system provides an emergency communications link between the people of King County and appropriate public safety responders, who are dispatched from 12 “public safety answering points” (PSAPs) across the county.
In addition to approving the Regional E-911 Strategic Plan, the legislation creates a new advisory governing body to coordinate decision-making and funding recommendations to sustain the countywide service.
“Three years ago, the question of how to manage the E911 system into the future was an open one. Now, due to the dedicated work of cities, public safety agencies, and the County, we have a Strategic Plan that charts a path forward,” said Council Vice Chair Claudia Balducci. “We have come together as a region and are ready to work collectively to ensure that when someone calls 911 the call is answered in seconds and help is on the way without delay.”
Balducci and Lambert, along with Councilmember Reagan Dunn, served as the Council’s representatives on the E911 Leadership Group, which approved the plan adopted by Council.
The newly passed law includes a timeline to securely and effectively integrate emerging technological capabilities into the E-911 system.
“The level of involvement and thoughtful deliberation between the PSAPs, King County, and the Cities throughout this process shows our commitment towards public safety and collaboration through the continuous improvement of the E-911 system,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert. “When those in need of emergency services call 911, our robust public safety infrastructure needs to make the process seamless and easy to use.”
Once implemented by King County and the public safety answering points, the updated E-911 network could support the transmission of text, photo, and /or video-to-911, allow for better location identification, and receive automatic collision notification from vehicles and data from medical devices.
The new Regional Advisory Governing Board created by the legislation will make recommendations to the King County E-911 Program Office and County elected officials. The plan anticipates that over the next five years the board will work to replace the current analog technology while also balancing expenditures and revenues to sustain the system.
“The 911 industry faces significant challenges in keeping pace with ever more complex technology and the high cost of that technology. This new ordinance is an important step forward in following national best practices that require increased coordination between all emergency services providers,” said Tom Orr, Executive Director of NORCOM, which provides 911 call answering and emergency communications services to 14 fire agencies and 6 police agencies in Northeast King County. “We are grateful to Councilmembers Balducci and Lambert and the entire Regional E-911 Strategic Plan Leadership Group for their work in addressing the future of 911 in King County.”
The Strategic Plan explains ways in which the financial situation could be stabilized through structural efficiencies coupled with establishing expanded or new revenue sources. It further recommends a handful of specific goals and deadlines identified through 2022, including the development of a cost-efficient staffing structure as well as making reforms to the existing tax structure.
County officials expect the modernized E-911 system to be deployed by 2022.