Thursday, October 29, 2009

Oregon Emergency Management is planning for future

Statesman Journal column

October 28, 2009

The 911 emergency call system has been around so long that many take it for granted. But there is more to the 911 system that we should know.

There are 50 911 call centers across Oregon. They are called Public Safety Answering Points, and equipment connects to the local telephone exchange carrier. PSAP equipment must be upgraded about every five years.

Oregon Emergency Management is responsible for coordination of the PSAPs and the 911 call-taking equipment and is looking ahead to the needs of Oregonians in the future. During the next few years as equipment is scheduled for upgrade or replacement, OEM is making sure that all equipment is "next generation capable." This means that when this new complex network is available, we will be able to not only call 911, but also text message the PSAPS.

During the Virginia Tech shooting, students sent texts to the 911 center not knowing that they were not getting through. This system is going to be valuable in getting emergency messages to the PSAPs faster and more effectively during different types of emergencies.

Jennifer Bailey, formerly of FEMA, is the public affairs coordinator of Oregon Emergency Management. She may be reached at (503) 378-2911, Ext. 22294 or