The Assembly Homeland Security and State Preparedness Committee recently advanced Assembly Bill No. 1821, which would require 9-1-1 service facilities to be equipped to receive text messages within three years. To help fund the upgrades, the proposed legislation temporarily increases the 9-1-1 System and Emergency Response Fee by 10 percent.
The ability to summon police by silently sending a text message could potentially save thousands of lives. However, because the new feature requires a high-tech upgrade, similar legislation has stalled in the past. This time around, supporters argue that the state can’t afford to wait any longer to update its 9-1-1 systems.
AB 1821 specifically requires emergency service facilities to be equipped with a Next Generation 9-1-1 system approved by the Office of Emergency Telecommunications Services for the processing of requests for emergency services sent via electronic or text message within three years following the bill’s enactment. The New Jersey 9-1-1 bill sets forth a funding prioritization for equipping public safety answering points with Next Generation 9-1-1 systems, by requiring funding to be distributed to county, regionalized, or other large centralized public safety answering points before funding other public safety answering points.
Currently, the 9-1-1 System and Emergency Response Fee, which is used to fund the 9-1-1 system, is a $0.90 monthly fee imposed on mobile service customers and telephone company customers in this State. The legislation raises the monthly fee to $0.99 for a period of 36 calendar months following the operative date. The bill also requires that the additional fees only be used to fund the 9-1-1 service facilities with the enhanced Next Generation 9-1-1 systems.
The bill takes into account that the ease of texting 9-1-1 comes with an increase of the potential abuse of the system. AB 1821 makes it a fourth-degree crime to text the emergency system without the intention to report an emergency.
If signed into law, the bill would take effect immediately, but remain inoperative for 60 days following the date of enactment. We will continue to track the status of AB 1821 and post updates as they become available.
For more information about the proposed 9-1-1 bill or the legal issues involved, we encourage you to contact a member of Scarinci Hollenbeck’s Government Law Group.