FCC chair meets with Indiana 911 officials about new tech, current challenges

INDIANA -- Soon, calling and texting won’t be your only ways Hoosiers get information to dispatchers during an emergency.

Knowing people can’t always call, the state 911 board has already made it so that people in Indiana can text to 911 in all 92 counties.

NexGen911 is supposed to let those in need also send pictures, video and even audio clips.

Today, along with representative Susan Brooks, the FCC chairman stopped at Hamilton County’s communications center as part of his nationwide tour to better understand what’s needed to make this happen.

Ajit Pai also asked 911 center directors and first responders what challenges they currently face.

The need for funding, especially for smaller communities, was underscored by county commissioners.

Chairman Pai says he’s constantly working with lawmakers to make sure the FCC’s 9-1-1 priorities have their attention and get funding.

“I have a very proactive approach with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle and houses of Congress,” said Pai. “Public safety is not a Republican Issue, it’s not a Democratic issue, it’s an American issue.”

While hearing that makes Hamilton County’s 911 director Mike Snowden happy, he says he has other concerns in addition to money, with Indiana 911 centers possibly accepting the NextGen media as early as next year.

“My dispatchers are not crime scene technicians,” said Snowden. They are not police officers and firefighters for a reason.  And so, to introduce a videotape of a crime scene to that dispatcher, how is that going to affect their mental health?”

Snowden says they’re already looking into ways to train dispatchers to mentally handle the pictures and video.

“What is it for the mental health of our employees and how are we going to keep them resilient and able to handle this new technology?” said Snowden of the questions 911 directors are asking themselves. “It’s a holistic approach that we have to take because it’s not just as simple as send me a picture.”

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