State pushes consolidated 911 call centers
Michael McGrady is helping lead the change necessary for Pennsylvanians to maintain the ability to make 911 calls.
McGrady, president of MCM Consulting Group in Peters, is working to consolidate 911 call centers in nine Western Pennsylvania counties by regionalizing technology at the Northern Tier Regional Telecommunications Project.
“This is just the beginning of the future,” said McGrady, 48. “If you can prove over a period of years that you can save money, from there you can do this across the commonwealth.”
The project, which began in 2011, is one example of the cost-saving measures recommended in legislation Gov. Tom Corbett signed last month. It's designed to act as a one-year stop-gap while lawmakers find ways to provide 911 call centers with long-term funding.
Without it, expenses will quickly outpace revenue, and counties will be left footing the bill, said Cory Angell, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
“There will soon be no money left,” Angell said.
The state funds 70 percent of the 69 call centers in Pennsylvania from monthly $1 to $1.50 surcharges on landline and cellphone bills. Counties pay the balance of the cost.
“This legislation allows county 911 centers to streamline services and implement cost-cutting strategies,” said state Rep. Stephen Barrar, R-Chester and Delaware counties, who authored the bill. “Individuals who call into the system will not notice a difference in service.”
The Northern Tier project helped Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Crawford, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, McKean and Warren counties save more than $1.4 million to replace aging equipment and $225,000 a year in maintenance costs, McGrady said. Similar efforts are underway in some northeastern counties.
Allegheny County's 911 center in Point Breeze is a more local consolidated 911 center, incorporating over the years many smaller emergency call centers and Pittsburgh's call center in 2005.
Still, there remains room for consolidation, said Alvin Henderson, chief of the county's Department of Emergency Services.
“It's needed for the sustainability of the 911 program,” Henderson said.
Allegheny's 911 center is the second-most expensive in the state with an operating budget of $22 million a year — Philadelphia has a $40 million annual price tag — but is among the most efficient, PEMA records show.
Future 911 call-center funding options could include an increase in the phone surcharge but more likely a fee tacked onto something else, Barrar said.
“We need to find a funding source that is stable because we have seen diminished returns with the demise of telephone land lines,” Barrar said. “Whatever funding source we target must be sustainable over time.”
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Newsmaker: George J. Zimmerman
- Parking, traffic crunch expected on busy North Shore this weekend
- Arizona Uzi shooting that accidentally killed instructor ‘just stupid’
- Monroeville firefighters hope hot photo calendar will help raise money
- Attorney General drops charges against ‘upper-level’ heroin dealers, records show
- Homeowners warned of bogus land surveyors
- Pitt, CMU researchers shed light on how learning works
- Biden in Pittsburgh Thursday for fundraiser
- Public Utility Commission hearing arguments against Lyft
- Italian Village Pizza owners plead guilty to tax evasion, conspiracy
- Western Pennsylvania drivers at bottom of insurer’s safety rankings