Conaway & Mukherji Bill to Upgrade NJ’s 9-1-1 Emergency Systems to Next Generation 9-1-1 Clears Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D. (D-Burlington) and Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson) to require 9-1-1 service facilities in the state to be equipped with a Next Generation 9-1-1 system to catch up to modern technology was released Thursday by an Assembly panel.

Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) is an initiative aimed at updating 9-1-1 services to improve public emergency communications services in a growingly wireless mobile society. In addition to calling 9-1-1 from a phone, it intends to enable the public to transmit text, images, video and data to the 9-1-1 center (referred to as a Public Safety Answering Point, or PSAP).

This NG9-1-1 infrastructure is intended to replace the current services over time.

“With next generation 9-1-1, the public will be able to communicate with 9-1-1 call centers the way they communicate with each other – via voice, text or video emergency calls,” said Conaway (D-Burlington). “This will move New Jersey’s emergency dispatch system out of voice-only technology that dates back to the 1960s into the modern era, and allow individuals to use the different communication methods allowed by smart phones to report their emergencies.”

“Our current system is outdated. Allowing the public to use other means to communicate their emergencies to the authorities is a good thing, and can be especially helpful in situations where calling 911 is not optimal,” said Mukherji. “The way people communicate has changed. Texting and FaceTiming is the new norm. Our emergency systems should allow for this type of communication.”

The bill (A-3742) would require 9-1-1 service facilities – within three years following the bill’s enactment – to be equipped with a NG9-1-1 system approved by the Office of Emergency Telecommunications Services for the processing of requests for emergency services sent via electronic or text message.

The bill would also temporarily increase the monthly 9-1-1 System and Emergency Response Fee from $0.90 to $0.99, and require that it only be used to fund the 9-1-1 service facilities with the enhanced Next Generation 9-1-1 systems. The increase would last for a three-year period.

The bill would set forth a funding prioritization for equipping public safety answering points with Next Generation 9-1-1 systems, by requiring funding to be distributed to county, regionalized, or other large centralized public safety answering points before funding other public safety answering points. The temporary fee increase would be imposed for billing periods ending on or after this bill’s operative date and only for a period of 36 calendar months following the operative date.

Under the bill, a person would be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree if they knowingly send an electronic message to a 9-1-1 system without purpose of reporting the need for 9-1-1 service.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee.