Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway, Daniel R. Benson and Nancy Pinkin to modernize the 911 system in New Jersey was advanced by an Assembly committee on Thursday.
The bill (A-1821) would require 911 service facilities to be equipped with the Next Generation 911 system within three years of the measure’s enactment. The Next Generation 911 system allows for the processing of electronic messages, including, but not limited to, electronic messages containing text, images, video or data. The sponsors noted that the ability to text 911 will be vital for New Jersey residents with communication disabilities and during emergencies that make talking impossible or impractical.
“Particularly in cases in which conspicuously calling for help may put someone in danger – for example, if a victim is hiding from an intruder during a home invasion – the ability to contact emergency personnel via a text message can be lifesaving,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “This enhancement to our state’s 911 system is a valuable investment that will keep more New Jersey residents safe.”
The bill temporarily increases the 911 System and Emergency Response Fee to $0.99 from $0.90 in order to finance the system.
“Almost everyone communicates by text these days,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex), Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee chair. “It makes sense that a person should be able to text for help, too. This also will help those with speech and other communication disabilities more easily access these life-saving services.”
“Enacting this legislation would allow for more lives to be saved,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “911 systems must adapt to current trends in order to be the most effective in emergencies.”
The bill also would make texting 911 to cause false alarm a fourth degree crime. A crime of the fourth degree may carry a penalty of up to 18 months in jail.
The measure was advanced by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee, of which Pinkin is vice-chair.