Friday, November 7, 2008

Pennsylvania wireless 911 system failed test

Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner recently recommended that the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency improve its administration of the statewide Wireless E-911 Emergency Services Program, after a special performance audit determined that a fully operational statewide system was not in place by June 30.

Auditors found that 11 of 69 call centers could not pinpoint the location of cellphone users placing emergency 911 calls -- even though PEMA had invested $214 million to build the system. The funds were derived from a $1 monthly surcharge the wireless service providers collected from Pennsylvania cellphone customers.

Auditors determined that inadequate staffing played a central role in the program's shortcomings, including PEMA's inability to make sure that the $214 million in funding had been disbursed prudently to county call centers.

"Taxpayers have a right to expect that when they pay for something, it should work as intended and it should be completed on time," Wagner said. "This is not a civics debate; it is a matter of life and death. When every second counts, and with more and more people relying on cellphones as their only communications device, it's imperative that the wireless E-911 system fulfill its goal of providing a caller's precise location to emergency responders. I strongly recommend that PEMA implement all of the recommendations made in our audit." (info from Government Technology)

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