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Letter to the Editor: Missouri 911 needs emergency help

Sunday, May 27, 2007

To the editor:The ability for Missourians to contact emergency responders is crucial for the safety of our citizens. For most, dialing 911 is the logical course of action when faced with an emergency situation. Unfortunately if you are calling by cell phone in Missouri, there is a greater than two-thirds chance that emergency responders will not find you.

The ability for a caller to tell a dispatcher their location may be extremely limited considering the nature of the emergency. In these cases, first responders must rely on tracking technology to find the caller. However, gaps in the 911 system around Missouri leave that option highly unavailable to first responders.

According to a recent Missouri Homeland Security study, approximately 20 percent of Missouri's counties lack the ability to locate landline 911 calls and less than one-third can locate 911 cell phones callers. This striking deficiency is not only shocking, but dangerous. Ours is one of the worst in the nation and actions must be taken to correct this potentially life-threatening problem.

Recently, Gov. Matt Blunt has called for a joint legislative committee to travel the state and investigate the 911 situation. The public generally does not know just how much of the state is lacking fully functioning 911 capability. Twenty-one counties have no 911 capability. Support must be given to lawmakers to fund the technology needed for statewide 911 coverage. Investment in these technologies is one we must make to save lives.

MARK S. JAMES, Director, Missouri Department of Public Safety, Jefferson City, Mo.