Normally, they are the ones who answer emergency calls. But now it’s dispatchers putting out the call for help, in a manner of speaking.
They are concerned about a proposal by the Washington State Senate to divert millions of tax dollars that are supposed to support upgrades in fire and police emergency call centers across the state.
“It looks like they are serious about taking a look at using 911 tax monies, about 15 million dollars, for other purposes,” said Thomas Orr, the executive director of NORCOM in Bellevue.
In 2011, taxpayers approved a hike in the 911 tax. It’s a charge that appears on your monthly phone bill. Taxpayers were told the money would be used to pay for the next generation of 911 services.
However, in its budget released last week the State Senate designates that millions of those dollars should go to the State’s Military Department. The money would be used for disaster services and upgrading the State’s 911 capabilities.
“It certainly isn’t what we promised the taxpayers when we asked them to approve that tax and give us that money,” said Orr.
Orr says the money is supposed to fund technology that would allow emergency centers to receive texts and photos. He says many citizens don’t realize that a text that they send to 911 is never seen by dispatchers because the call center doesn’t have that technology.
“Right now we’re in a situation where right here on my hip my smart phone is a lot smarter than the technology I have here on the floor behind me,” said Orr as he stood in the heart of his dispatch center.
Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond) was unavailable Friday to take about why the Ways and Means Committee, which he chairs, pushed for the diversion of funds.
The House budget, released this week, does not include such a provision and would send all the money to local and regional 911 centers.
House and Senate negotiators will decide in the next few weeks if the measure will be included in the final budget that lawmakers will vote on.