A group of state lawmakers and local authorities are trying to streamline Utah's emergency response system, from the gathering and distribution of funds to the actions taken when an emergency call is received.
At a July 11 meeting, Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder emphasized the need for a more efficient system. Winder said that proper funding and time-efficient protocol are necessary when dealing with potentially life-threatening situations.
"I hope the general public realizes just how absolutely critical these discussions are and how imperative it has become for some kind of solution in the near-term," Winder said.
Winder and other members of the Government Communications Task Force spoke of the need to invest in "next-generation" technology, which could involve 911 responders receiving text messages, photos and video recordings in addition to phone calls. This would give citizens more options when reaching out for help and potentially allow first-responders to view the scene before they arrive.
Winder said some states are spending as much as 58 percent of their public safety funds on researching and implementing next-generation technologies. Utah's current statute, however, doesn't require any funding for such strategies. While the state 911 committee has given grants to six local public-safety answering points (PSAPs), authorities say that money only goes so far.
"There simply is not enough monies coming in right now to manage these very complicated systems to the level that we are technologically forced to do so â¦ I don't know that people understand really the pending crisis we're facing as it relates to the pick up the phone, call for help and get help piece [of public safety]," Winder said.