Lansing, Michigan (April 14, 2022) – This week is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, when Americans recognize the 90,000 emergency operators, 911 dispatchers, and other communications experts who answer more than 240 million emergency calls per year. For many public safety agencies, broadband and communications tools that rely on high-speed internet are becoming an increasingly important part of their work.
According to the 44,600-plus residential surveys conducted in communities that have participated in the Connected Community Engagement Program since 2020, one in five households (20%) go online to interact with public safety agencies at least once a week, making it a vital tool for these agencies to stay in contact with the communities they serve.
A similar share of local public safety agencies (21%) help protect their communities from cybersecurity threats by providing tips on how to avoid identity theft and other fraud, partnering with federal agencies to put a stop to online human trafficking, keeping their communities apprised of ongoing cyberthreats, and a host of other ways.
Many of these public safety agencies, though, say they are in this fight with one hand tied behind their backs. Two out of five public safety agencies surveyed through the Connected program (40%) say that their internet service does not meet their needs. Additionally, fewer than one in three of these agencies (32.6%) say they have interoperable data and voice systems that allow them to communicate with other local agencies. Those without such systems are oftentimes left isolated from other police, fire, and emergency agencies whose assistance can mean a difference between life and death.
Funding expands access for first responders
Connected Nation values first responders and supports local, state, and national efforts to improve connectivity for all public safety officers. A recent analysis of county implementation plans by the National Association of Counties (NACO) showed that one-quarter of counties (25%) plan to prioritize funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for public safety and justice agencies.
ARPA will provide up to $350 billion in emergency funding to states, communities, territories, and tribal governments through Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. These funds can be used toward several purposes, including investments in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure. By dedicating these dollars to improve and expand the high-speed connectivity of local public safety organizations, communities can help keep their residents and first responders safer.
To learn more about how ARPA funds can help communities support public safety telecommunicators and others, you can view our policy brief HERE, and learn more about the Connected Community Engagement Program HERE. You can also follow us on Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates.
About the Author: Chris McGovern is the Connected Nation Director of Research Development. Chris works with Connected Nation staff and external stakeholders to develop research deliverables and provide critical analysis. He uses qualitative and quantitative techniques to interpret data, formulate reports, and make substantiated recommendations based on research findings.
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