SC gets $2.3 million to upgrade 911 centers to “Next Generation” system


COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- South Carolina will get federal money to upgrade the state’s 911 call centers. There are 50 of them statewide and most can handle calls, but not much else.

The “Next Generation 91” system improves location abilities and allows residents to send a text message, pictures or videos directly from their phone to dispatch.

911 systems were originally built around landlines and were upgraded when cell phones were introduced.

“With a cell phone you did not have an address, so we had to develop technology to be able to tell dispatchers and first responders where the call was coming from,” explained Frank Rainwater with SC Revenue & Fiscal Affairs Office. The office is responsible for distributing funding for those location capabilities.

But even that upgrade came with problems. “When you call into a 911 center depending on how accurately we can track that call you may get routed to the wrong 911 center,” said Paul Athey, Division Director with RFA.

So 911 systems had to evolve once again. The “Next Generation 911” systems provide more accurate locations for a caller and can handle advanced cell phone capabilities like “being able to send for example text messages to a 911 call center,” added Athey.

Most counties in SC can only handle calls, but the state recently received $2.33 million to upgrade all the systems that would allow text messaging, pictures and improved locators.

The system also puts all the public safety answering points in the state on the same network.

Athey continued, “In the event of a natural disaster guaranteed service if one call centers goes down we can immediately route those calls.”

“Lets say a hurricane there’s more capabilities for having further counties provide backup,” added Rainwater.

RFA says the new systems should be implemented within the next 3 years.

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