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Conaway, Chivukula, Benson & Pinkin Bill to Allow Residents to Text 9-1-1 Clears First Legislative Hurdle

(TRENTON) – An Assembly panel on Thursday cleared the way for legislation Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway, Upendra Chivukula, Daniel Benson and Nancy Pinkin sponsored to enable residents to text 911 in an emergency.

The sponsors said the ability to text 9-1-1 will be a vital service for New Jersey residents with communication disabilities and in emergencies where an individual is unable to talk or must be discrete.

“Some emergency situations require a less obvious call for help,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “It can be especially vital in domestic violence situations, or situations involving children and seniors. Expanding existing law to include the option to text 9-1-1 will protect more residents in more emergency situations.”

“Texting 9-1-1 is in the future of New Jersey’s 9-1-1 emergency systems,” said Chivukula (D-Middlesex, Somerset). “It is an option that fits right in with today’s technology. Residents should be able to call for help in anyway they can, including by text.”

The bill requires 911 service facilities to be equipped with system for processing requests for emergency services sent via text message. Under the bill, 911 service facilities to be equipped with enhanced 911 systems approved by the Office of Emergency Telecommunications Services for the processing of requests for emergency services sent via text message within three years following the enactment of this bill.

“Almost everyone communicates by text these days,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “It makes sense that a person should also be able to call for help too. This will also help those with speech and other communication disabilities to more easily access these life saving services.”

“Enacting this legislation would allow for more lives to be saved,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “9-1-1 systems must adapt to current trends in order to be the most effective in emergencies.”

The bill provides that the 911 System and Emergency response Fee is to increase by 10 percent to equip 911 service facilities with the ability to process requests for emergency services sent via text message. The fee increase is to expire after a period of three years following the enactment of the bill.

Currently, the 911 System and Emergency Response Fee, which is used to fund the 911 system, is a $.90 monthly fee imposed on mobile service customers and telephone company customers in this state. This bill increases the monthly fee to $.99.

The Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities committee released the legislation during a morning session. The committee also heard testimony from invited guests and stakeholders concerning the 9-1-1 Emergency telephone System, the utilization of collected funds for the 9-1-1 Emergency Telephone System Account, and the implementation of advanced communication technologies to enhance the 9-1-1 system.