The House Interim Committee on 911 Access is charged with making sure all Missourians can access emergency help. Currently, 17 Counties don’t have 911 access, and certain groups of people, like those with hearing loss, want systems to be updated so they can text 911 from mobile phones. Committee Chair Chuck Gatchenberger says trying to craft legislation to solve the problem is difficult.
Gatchenberger says there are programs available for being able to text 911, in the case of an accident or an incident where the caller would not want to or be able to talk. The problem is the expense. Committee members are working on pricing a comprehensive plan that would allow all counties to be able to text 911 and find the exact location of any cell phone, because right now, only phones with GPS can be found by 911 dispatchers. Other cell phones just give the location of the tower where the cell phone signal is coming from.
Another problem is funding. Currently 911 programs are funded largely by a tax on landline phones, but fewer people are keeping their landlines in favor of cell phones, so the committee talked about a new tax on cell phones. But in a state where new taxes are not popular, Gatschenberger doesn’t know how it’ll get done.
The committee meets again next month.