North Carolina is overhauling the technology in its 911 centers to connect better with one another and with cell phones users.
The current analog system serving the 117 centers in the state was designed in the 1960s, according to State Information Technology Secretary Eric Boyette.
“Some of the call centers cannot connect internally when they need to transfer calls,” Boyette said. “The new technology [will] be more of an Internet-based routing service. It's newer technology and it'll allow these centers to seamlessly connect with each other.”
Boyette said the new system will also improve geo-location for callers from cell phones.
“If it's an immediate need, they can send quick information and we'll also do geographic location,” he said. “So, we can locate the caller based on the route from that mobile phone, so we'll be able to see exactly where that caller is.”
The North Carolina 911 Board has awarded AT&T a $99 million contract to rebuild the communications system. Funds will come from a 60 cent fee on residents' monthly phone bills.
Officials say the overhaul should be completed in three to five years.
Another benefit, according to Boyette: the new system will let users communicate via text messages and photos.
“If you're trying to describe a situation to the 911 operator, a lot of times a picture is worth a thousand words,” Boyette said. “They get calls about vehicle fires, they get calls about accidents… It'll bring some clarity to those descriptions as they get them from the call centers.”
Boyette said the new system will allow separate 911 centers to handle calls for one another, which will help during disasters and other high-volume periods.