Every person pays $1.65 toward emergency services when they purchase a cellphone. That money goes to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, which distributes the fund to state emergency service centers.
Centre County Emergency Communications is looking to receive a joint grant of $1,516,002.05 to update and improve its technical equipment, something that is very much needed according to Dale Neff, who is the director of the county 911 office.
There is no additional fee for current mobile phone users.
Neff said the telephone communication system has not been updated since 2012, which is a year past the system's life expectancy. The update for that equipment will cost almost $618,000, and without the grant the money would come from the general fund received from PEMA, thus preventing it from being used toward other needs, according to Neff.
The Centre County portion of the PEMA grant is part of a larger grant applied for by the Southern Allegheny 911 Consortium, made up of six other counties. The total amount the consortium is seeking is nearly $5 million. Centre County would be receiving the largest grant amount from the consortium, with Cambria County receiving the second most at around $850,000. Centre County's remaining amount of after telephone upgrades would help with additional technological upgrades.
The update to the 911 center would help emergency responders assist people in need faster and more efficiently, providing a great benefit to safety for county residents and those traveling to the county, said Neff.
The technology updates will allow 911 to easily transfer calls received from outside Centre County to the correct county.
“There won’t be any delay, they won’t be put on hold, they won’t be asked to redial 911 and see if they get the correct county. That call will be handled seamlessly,” said Neff.
The new phone system also would allow for video to be sent to the dispatchers from the scene. Neff said there are some questions regarding whether dispatchers will want to use the video option, but they would have the technology to allow it with an updated system.
Another benefit will be an enhanced text-to-911 ability that will provide the center with the location of the phone when it is receives a text message to 911. Currently, the location they receive from a text message is unreliable, said Neff.
The new system also would offer better support from other counties, if something were to happen that caused the 911 office to go offline. In that case, other counties in the network would be able to take calls from Centre County, which is something that was not previously available.
“The 911 group of services is moving forward. It is evolving, where we will be able to do this kind of stuff that we haven’t been able to do up until now,” said Neff.