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New report on 911 in Florida points to recommendations for improving emergency response

By Staff | Aug 31, 2009

A first-of-its kind analysis of 911 in Florida identifies numerous vulnerabilities and offers specific recommendations for shoring up a fragmented emergency response system. The independent study was commissioned by Florida’s largest community foundation following the 2008 murder of Denise Amber Lee. While 911 calls placed by Lee from her abductor’s cell phone and by a witness who suspected a crime was occurring were answered, units that could have been dispatched to help Lee were not. The report is available online at gulfcoastcf.org.
“Florida 911: The State of Emergency,” prepared by Tartaglione & Associates of Gainesville and funded by Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice, analyzed all of the components of emergency response that are activated when a person in need of assistance tries to call 911 in Florida. The study found that Florida’s 911 system is not a “system” at all, but rather a patchwork of state and local agencies, protocols, and technologies cobbled together to respond to 911 calls.
“This is the first time that 911 in Florida has been analyzed from the placement of a call to the arrival of a first responder on the scene,” said Mark Pritchett, the Foundation’s vice president for community investment.
The study reveals several key findings of why the 911 system in Florida falls short as a public service, including:
* No single state agency to monitor how effectively calls for emergency assistance are handled
* Underfunding the system on a statewide level
* No mandated, uniform training in the state’s 258 call centers that handle 911 calls
* Incomplete statewide coordination of equipment used for emergency response
“The tragic abduction, rape, and murder of Denise Amber Lee last year devastated our community,” said Pritchett. “Gulf Coast Community Foundation commissioned this objective analysis to help understand how the 911 system works, how it is funded, and what can be done to improve it. The Foundation’s goal is to stimulate conversation and action among those who can improve the system, to ensure that it doesn’t fail others in the future.”
The study presents 18 recommendations for overcoming these challenges and establishing a coordinated, seamless 911 system, including:
* Redefine 911 as a comprehensive emergency response system inclusive of all aspects of emergency service provision, from the time a call to 911 is placed to the time when help arrives.
* Appoint a state-level position to oversee and coordinate all aspects of 911 emergency response in Florida.
* Mandate minimum standards for training, protocol, and equipment for all call centers.
* Establish state-level lists of approved equipment or standards for interconnectivity among all types of devices used to access and mobilize emergency response.
The Foundation has also worked with Nathan Lee, the widower of Denise Amber Lee, who established a charitable fund in his wife’s name with memorial donations he received. The fund supports the efforts of the Denise Amber Lee Foundation to promote public safety through uniform training, standardized protocols, defined measurable outcomes, and technological advances in the 911 system.

Source: Gulf Coast Community Foundation of Venice