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Today the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it has finalized a $100,000 fine against a small Oklahoma telephone company for failing to direct 911 calls to a public safety answering point (PSAP), instead sending the calls to a recording that told callers to hang up and dial 9-1-1—again. In an unrelated order (pdf), the FCC also fined Verizon $1 million for a six-hour 9-1-1 outage last year that affected 11 million residents in a wide area of the northwest. details

After suffering through years of delays and interference problems with its public safety radio system, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has handed Oakland (Calif.) one more hurdle. The commission has turned down the city’s request to delay rebanding its current Harris. Corp. 800 MHz system, and ordered the city to promptly return equipment it borrowed from Sprint four years ago. In its order released on Monday, the commission said it was, “not persuaded that Oakland’s refusal to return the equipment was due to Oakland’s staff all being occupied by identifying interference to its radio system. The city had told the FCC that it has now engaged “additional resources” to ship the equipment back to Sprint. But the FCC noted that city officials did explain “why those additional resources could not have been mustered years ago.” The commission was direct. “We will not indulge further temporizing on Oakland’s part—Oakland shall return all borrowed equipment to Sprint on or before 45 days from the release date of this Memorandum Opinion and Order.” They also declined to extend the city’s rebanding deadline to Dec. 31st, 2015. The order interestingly documents some of the various interference problems the city has encountered along the way. Read the entire order here.

The Sandy Hook (Conn.) school shooting commission has issued its final report, including a recommendation to “integrate” smaller comm centers in the state and set minimum staffing levels to assure there will be sufficient comm center personnel for both call-taking and radio dispatch tasks during future major events. The 215-page report  (pdf) covers a wide range of topics, from school building design, to mental health treatment and gun control. The commission made 52 recommendations. details


Washington County (Ore.) 911 center are testing out exercise treadmills at their consoles to improve their concentration, stress level and health.

Dispatcher Recalls 911 Call CPR

TV News Investigates 911 Accuracy

NBC News says their investigation found that 60 percent of 911 callers can’t be located by the comm center handling the call.

A consulting company has delivered its final report on the operation of the Stanislaus (Calif.) Regional 911 center, identifying a wide-ranging list of 36 recommendations related to staffing, workload, budget and operations, and providing a wide-ranging list of 36 recommendations. The report by Matrix Consulting focused on governance, how participating agencies are billed for services, and explored replacement of the center’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) software. The study is the second one made in the last year—a study (pdf) by Jackman Associates last year was widely criticized as supporting the agenda of Modesto police chief Galen Carroll, who has been openly critical of the center’s performance. The previous study concluded that the center’s 39 dispatchers were paid more than comparable center in nearby counties, and that opinion later affected contact negotiations with the dispatchers. The new study recommends keeping the current 12-hour shift configuration, revising how radio and call-taking tasks are handled, but maintaining current administrative and supervision levels. Download (pdf) the entire 177-page Matrix study for the details.

Officials in Clark County (Wash.) say they are reviewing how dispatchers handled a neighborhood shooting incident and a subsequent multi-agency SWAT response that led to an innocent man being shot by officers who were confused by conflicting radio traffic. The county district attorney has already cleared the officers of any wrong-doing, but the injured man’s attorney says he’s planning legal action. Last month a county resident shot a neighbor over a long-running property dispute, and then fled into a nearby woods. Meanwhile, an area resident was enroute to his security guard job, noticed the suspect’s car parked in an out-of-the-way area, and stopped to investigate. He dialed 911 to report the car, but dispatchers neither warned him of the original shooting or the nearby police search for the suspect. They also didn’t ask for the caller’s description, or then warn SWAT officers in the area about the caller’s presence near the suspect’s car. As the search continued, officers spotted the man who dialed 911, believed it was the shooting suspect returning to his car, and opened fire. The caller was armed with a handgun and fired back, believing someone from a nearby overpass was shooting at him—he never heard police give any warnings. He was shot in the leg by the officers, and dialed 911 again to report he had been shot. Later in an ambulance, the caller heard officers say, “Is this the guy we shot?” Only then did he realize that police had shot him. The comm center investigation should be complete within a week, officials say. Read more about the incident here, and listen to 911 calls here.

A major 911 industry association has filed comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) urging them to adopt rules that split the responsibility for providing back-up power for VoIP telephone service so subscribers still have a way to dial 9-1-1 when their electric service is interrupted. Last month the commission acknowledged that many households have switched from copper-wire telephones to IP-voice telephone service, usually in connection with how they obtain Internet service for their computers. The FCC also noted that many carriers are retiring copper wire service because of its high installation and maintenance costs, and limited flexibility for providing advanced services. Considering public safety, the FCC proposed rules that would require carriers to provide electrical power for their modems and associated gear that provides telephone service, to maintain 911 service during outages. In its comments, the National Association of State 911 Administrators (NASNA) suggested providing 24 hours of back-up power, instead of the eight hours proposed by the commission. The group also noted a distinction between those who have already switched to VoIP and those forced to change as copper is retired. “The former should already be aware of the limitations of their service,” NASNA said, “and should have taken personal responsibility for ensuring they have extra batteries or an alternative means of communication during a power outage. The latter group would have no alternative means of communication after the loss of copper, and the carrier should be responsible for initially providing a back-up power source, NASNA said. The group said back-up power should apply to “minimally essential communications,” including outgoing 911 voice calls and texts, incoming emergency alerts and warnings, and outgoing calls to 211 and other community services. Download (pdf) FCC’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking here, and the group’s comments here.

Sources have told The Wall Street Journal that Motorola is considering the sale of its Solutions division, which includes the full line-up of two-way public safety radio and associated products. The WSJ broke the story Friday evening, and said the company is in the early stages of exploring a possible sale. The division is the only remaining unit of the original Motorola Inc. company that has marketed a wide range of electronic products since its founding in 1928. The division generated revenues of $5.9 billion in 2014. It’s not clear what company or private investment firm might want to purchase the unit.

A report by New York City’s top management investigator has found the city’s 911 upgrade project has been seriously mismanaged, has passed $2 billion in costs and is not close to being completed. The project began in 2004, and last October the Department of Investigation (DOI) warned the project was out of control and $700 million over budget. The latest report is scathing in its criticism of almost every aspect of the project, including that managers misrepresented the project’s status to former mayor Michael Bloomberg and did not properly supervise outside constructors. A former Bloomberg aide criticized the report before its release, claiming the 911 upgrade was a “tremendous success,” and that the DOI report was neither “thorough” or “objective.” Among the criticism were that the project lacked vision and planning, was ill-defined, set unrealistic expectations, had inadequate staffing and had no central decision-making authority. Download (pdf) the entire 112-page report, and read an editorial calling the 911 project an example of “epic incompetence.”

A 911 dispatcher in Galax (Virg.) answered a scared mother’s prayers and helped save her child’s life by guiding the little boy’s family through CPR—even though the center doesn’t provide EMD instructions. Seventeen-month-old Aidan Walker had been under the weather and was taking a nap with his grandmother when he suddenly had a seizure and stopped breathing. Read more here.

During a routine meeting of an obscure Federal Communications Commission (FCC) task force last week, one of the agency’s commissioners raised an amazing possibility—the nation’s 5,900 public safety answering points (PSAP) might be consolidated and reduced to just three. Whether that’s even physically or politically possible wasn’t explored by commissioner Michael O’Reilly, but it certainly raised the eyebrows of attendees at the Task Force on Optimal Public Safety Answering Point Architecture (TFOPA) meeting. As recounted by Urgent Communications, O’Reilly told the meeting “By some estimate, the current structure would be able to operate at optimal efficiency with as few as three [PSAPs] nationwide.” He didn’t explain if he meant physical or virtual PSAPs, the latter a possibility after the NG911 project is completed over the next 10 years. Watch the video of the entire 2 ½-hour meeting here.

As part of the National Football League’s “No More” campaign against domestic violence, the league will run a 30-second commercial during this Sunday’s Super Bowl featuring a “trick” 911 call. In the commercial, a woman pretends to be ordering a pizza while talking to a 911 calltaker, presumably in order not to alert the person who she fears. Such incidents have actually occurred, and have been one element of the adoption of text-to-911 technology that is slowly rolling out across the United States. [click to continue…]