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Bill requires emergency call centers have back-up plan for outages

Staff report

Every 911 center in North Carolina will now be required to have a backup call response plan in place.
Senate Bill 797, signed Wednesday by Governor Pat McCrory, requires all public agencies operating 911 communication centers, referred to as Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), to have an alternate plan for taking 911 calls in the event that a primary PSAP is unable to receive and process the calls.
While the state’s PSAPs answered approximately 6.9 million 911 calls last year, there were outages at 21 PSAPs across the state, resulting in roughly 62 hours without service. And of the 127 PSAPs in the state, only 26 centers currently have backup plans established.
Lincoln County’s 911 system struggled with a three-hour outage in May, when the service provider, AT&T, was faced with a tandem outage, causing disrupted services across the region.
The Times-News previously reported that upon discovering the issue, Lincoln County’s 911 director of communications, Rick Ellis, instructed telecommunications personnel to alert county residents of the problem through their emergency notification system and releasing a seven-digit non-emergency number.
“North Carolinians should have confidence that emergency services will be there when they are needed most,” McCrory said in a press release. “By requiring our 911 centers to have a plan for redirecting emergency calls, citizens can be assured that police, fire and ambulance services can respond quickly during an emergency.”
As a sponsor of the bill, Lincoln County Rep. Jason Saine said the legislation emphasizes the state’s commitment to public safety.
“First responders understand how critical it is during any emergency to hope for the best but prepare for the worst,” he said in the release. “This legislation gives first responders added confidence that clear plans are in place for any communication outages that might occur.”
911 communication centers will have until July 1, 2016 to comply with the new law.

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