April 5, 2013 By Jessica Renee Napier
About 15 years ago, the first wireless 911 call was successfully made from a mobile device. Fast-forward nine years to the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007. On the day of the shootings, many students sent text messages to 911, but those messages were never received by law enforcement officials. Students had no way of knowing that their texts were going into an abyss.
In the last year, a handful of jurisdictions have started implementing technology that allows citizens to send text messages to one of the country’s 6,500 public safety answering points (PSAPs). The technology should be available nationwide by May 2014 as a result of the FCC's "Next Generation 9-1-1" project -- a partnership with AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, the four largest mobile carriers.
In March, Frederick County became the first jurisdiction in Maryland to make this service available to customers of Verizon Wireless. The county began conversations with Verizon last fall, recognizing that the Text-to-911 movement was gaining momentum.
“Our goal is to not be passively sitting and waiting,” said Jack Markey, Director of Frederick County’s Division of Emergency Management, “but to be part of moving that forward.”
According to Markey, the county currently receives 65 percent of its 911 calls from wireless devices. Verizon Wireless and TeleCommunication Systems (TCS), a facilitator for wireless communications, approached Maryland’s Emergency Numbers System Board — of which Markey is a member — about moving forward with a Text-to-911 pilot.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.