– Rep. Steve Barrar (R-Chester/Delaware), majority chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, today lead the committee in a vote on legislation to update and enhance the Commonwealth’s 911 emergency communications law. The bill passed with bipartisan support.
After six public hearings held across the state and several stakeholder meetings throughout two-and-a-half years, Barrar presented House Bill 911
to the committee.
“Whether your grandmother, neighbor or friend has benefitted, you undoubtedly know the remarkable service that emergency responders provide through 911,” Barrar said. “The state’s 911 law needs to be updated so this life-saving service can continue to be available to all citizens of the Commonwealth not only as it is now, but also in new, technologically advanced ways.”
The bill will modernize the state 911 law by focusing on the advent of next-generation 911 technology, which will enable citizens to contact emergency responders using a variety of new communication methods. The new technology includes texting, calls from video, non-human (e.g. OnStar) calls and calls from non-specific devices, such as an iPad.
The bill will increase the 911 surcharge to allow for the creation of new technology, as well as to address the growing financial need county 911 centers are facing as a result of the ever-increasing expenses of pricey communications equipment and rising personnel costs.
Since the creation of the law in 1990, the 911 surcharge has not been increased. Wireless phones, VOIP phones and prepaid communication devices were later captured under the surcharge provisions of this law, but the fee for these devices was calculated from the current 1990 surcharges that were in place for landline phones under the original law.
The surcharge, which will be uniform across all types of communication devices capable of contacting a 911 center, would be $1.65. This would reflect only a $0.15 increase from the current maximum surcharge allowed under state law.
“This money will be allocated to foster shared services and regionalization, which makes 911 services more efficient,” Barrar said. “It was important to keep the updated surcharge low not only because the taxpayers are my top concern, but also because I want to challenge the call centers to work together and use the money that the surcharge will generate conservatively.”
The updated surcharge is expected to generate $326 million annually for the Commonwealth’s 911 systems. These funds will be distributed to the counties on a quarterly basis, which will allow the counties to more efficiently budget for 911 purposes.
The bill now advances to the full House for consideration.
Representative Stephen E. Barrar
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Alison Evans