If Sampson County’s 911 center lost power, emergency officials have a plan B and even a Plan C to ensure emergency services are provided at the time they are most needed.
But it’s unknown if it satisfies state officials.
In early July, Gov. Pat McCrory signed legislation which requires every 911 center in North Carolina to have a backup call response plan in place.
“North Carolinians should have confidence that emergency services will be there when they are needed most,” McCrory stated in a news release. “By requiring our 911 centers to have a plan for redirecting emergency calls, citizens can be assured that police, fire and ambulance services can respond quickly during an emergency.”
Senate Bill 797 requires all public agencies operating 911 centers (also known as Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs)) to have an alternative plan to take calls, if a primary location can’t receive them.
Jerry Cashwell, assistant emergency management director and fire marshal for Sampson County, said the 911 center has a backup generator, if power goes out. If that fails, the Clinton Police Department has a room for telecommunications, just a smaller version of the 911 center.
Cashwell said an alternative center should not be in the same area, if something catastrophic was to occur.
“If you have something that actually impacted the phone lines or fiber connections, you would want some distance from your primary and backup center,” Cashwell said.
According to statistics, the state’s centers answered 6.9 million calls, but outages at 21 PSAPS resulted in 62 hours with no 911 service.
Rep. Jason Saine, a first responder and one of the bill’s sponsors, says the legislation affirms the state’s commitment to public safety.
“First responders understand how critical it is during any emergency to hope for the best but prepare for the worst,” said Saine. “This legislation gives first responders added confidence that clear plans are in place for any communication outages that might occur.”
Of the 127 PSAPs in the state, only 26 have backup plans in place. According to documents from the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management and the North Carolina 911 Board, Sampson County’s PSAP certification for a backup plan is “pending.”
Sen. Andrew Brock, a bill sponsor, said citizens will be better served when every PSAP has a designated backup plan.
“Our 911 centers should use the latest technology to ensure that all North Carolinians have uninterrupted, high-quality 911 service that allows their emergency calls to be answered in a timely way,” said Brock.
PSAPS have until July 1, 2016 to comply with the new law.
“It’s something we’ve been constantly working on for years,” Cashwell said.