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911 History/Funding

This section is to help better understand who we are, what we do, and provide historical and technical information regarding your local 911 system.

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Tarriff Setting – How The 911 System Is Funded

Funding for the operation of the Emergency Telephone System (E 911) comes from the surcharge affixed to each telephone line located in the two counties.  Prior to September 1st of each year, the Authority  is required by Colorado State Statute, to set the tariff for the coming year.  The 1997 legislature changed the statute to provide for collection of both wireline and wireless surcharge.  Since the creation of the El Paso – Teller County 911 “Authority” Board, the tariff had remained at $.50 cents per month until the year 2004 when it was raised to $.70 per month.

National 911 History

“911” is the three digit telephone number that has been designated as the “Universal Emergency Number,” for public use throughout the United States to request emergency assistance. It is intended as a nationwide telephone number giving the public direct access to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) which will be responsible for taking the appropriate action. In the United States, the first catalyst for a nationwide emergency telephone number gained momentum in 1957 when the National Association of Fire Chiefs recommended use of a single number for reporting fires nationwide.

In 1967, the President’s Commission of Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice recommended that a “single number should be established” nationwide for reporting emergency situations. The use of different telephone numbers for each type of emergency was determined to be contrary to the purpose of a single, universal number. Other Federal Government Agencies and various governmental officials also supported and encouraged the recommendation. As a result of the immense interest in this issue, the President’s Commission on Civil Disorders turned to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for a solution.

In November of 1967, the FCC met with the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T) to find a means of establishing a universal emergency number that could be implemented quickly. In 1968, AT&T announced that it would establish the digits 911 (nine-one-one) as the emergency code throughout the United States.

The code 911 was chosen because it best fit the needs of all parties involved. First, and most important, it meets public requirements because it is brief, easily remembered, and can be dialed quickly. Second, because it is a unique number, never having been authorized as an office code, area code, or service code, it best meets the long range numbering plans and switching configurations of the telephone industry. Congress backed AT&T’s proposal and passed legislation allowing use of only the numbers 911 when creating a single emergency calling service thereby making 911 a standard emergency number nationwide. A Bell System policy was established to absorb the cost of central office modifications and any additions necessary to accommodate the 911 code as part of the general rate base. The E911 subscriber is responsible for paying network trunking costs according to tariffed rates, and for purchasing answering equipment from the vendor of their choice.

On February 16, 1968, Senator Rankin Fite completed the first 911 call to be made in the United States in Haleyville, Alabama. The serving telephone company was Alabama Telephone Company, which later became Contel Corp. This 911 system is still in operation today. On February 22, 1968, Nome, Alaska implemented 911 service.

In March of 1973, the White House’s Office of Telecommunications, issued a national policy statement, which recognized the benefits of 911, encouraged the nationwide adoption of 911, and provided for the establishment of a Federal Information Center to assist units of government in planning and implementation.  The intense interest in the concept of 911 can be attributed primarily to the recognition of characteristics of modern society, i.e., increased incidences of crimes, accidents, and medical emergencies, inadequacy of existing emergency reporting methods, and the continued growth and mobility of the population.

In the early 1970’s, AT&T began the development of sophisticated features for the 911 with a pilot program in Alameda County, California. The feature was “selective call routing.”  This pilot program supported the theory behind the Executive Office of Telecommunication’s Policy. By the end of 1976, 911 was serving about 17% of the population of the United States. In 1979, approximately 26% of the population of the United States had 911 service, and nine states had enacted 911 legislation. At this time, 911 service was growing at the rate of 70 new systems per year.

By the year 1987, those figures had grown to indicate that 50% of the US population has access to 911 emergency service numbers.

In addition, Canada recognized the advantages of a single emergency number and chose to adopt 911 rather than use a different means of emergency reporting service, thus unifying the concept and giving 911 international stature.

At the end of the 20th century, nearly 93% of the population of the United States was covered by some type of service.  Ninety-five percent of that coverage was Enhanced 911.  Approximately 50% of the geographical area is covered by some type of 911 with the same percentage being enhanced 911.

Local 911 History

In November 1978, The El Paso County Commissioners established an Emergency Response Center for some communities in Teller County and for El Paso County. The system was a basic 911 configuration, which provided for only one Public Safety Answering Point. During the first year of operation, the center responded to 60,500 emergency calls for service. During 1988 the Emergency Response Center responded to 84,666 emergency calls.

El Paso County funded 100% of the cost of maintaining the Emergency Response Center. The 1989 budget for the Emergency Response Center amounted to $421,235. The center was physically located in the basement of the old Colorado Springs Police Building at 224 East Kiowa Street, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The system’s major defects were the inability of the caller to contact directly the appropriate agency in an emergency and the agencies’ inability to provide immediate assistance to the caller if the call is prematurely disconnected or the caller is unable to communicate emergency information. A call placed on the basic 911 system had to be answered at the Emergency Response Center and then be transferred to the appropriate city or county response agency. In some instances those few minutes required to ascertain the nature of the emergency, location of the emergency, appropriate agency and transfer time could have made substantial difference in the eventual outcome of the emergency.

Members of the emergency services agencies throughout El Paso and Teller County began to see the need to progress from a basic 911 system to a system that is called “Enhanced 911”. The enhanced system has been designed to reduce or eliminate most of the problems by using emerging technologies such as:

  • Selective Routing – Automatically routes calls to the appropriate Public Safety Answering Point, greatly reducing the number of out-of-jurisdiction calls.
  • Automatic Number Identification (ANI) – Provides a visual display of the calling number on a 911 display within the Public Safety Answering Points.
  • Automatic Location Identification (ALI) – Provides a visual display of the name and address associated with the calling telephone number. This information, along with the appropriate police, fire, and EMS response agency is displayed on a 911 computer terminal within the Public Safety Answering Point.
  • Selective Transfer – Allows call-takers at a Public Safety Answering Point to transfer an incoming 911 call to another Public Safety Answering Point with the push of a single button. When a call is transferred, all display information; along with the calling party is transferred.
  • Security and Redundancy – The 911 system recognizes the critical nature of all 911 calls and the need for redundancy and security. The enhanced system allows for the automatic switching of calls to another center, should an emergency arise in the original receiving center.

Realizing the importance of implementing an Enhanced 911 System, work was undertaken to bring together all the emergency response organizations within El Paso County and Teller County. The first undertaking was the creation of an Inter-governmental Agreement  that would be signed by some thirty-one (31) agencies creating the El Paso – Teller County Emergency Telephone Service Authority.  In approximately 1990, all the signatures were obtained and this separate Colorado Government Entity was created. Colorado Revised Statutes § 29-11-101 through 105 guide the operation of this Emergency Telephone Service Authority, which has become more commonly known as the El Paso – Teller County Enhanced 911 “Authority” Board.

The Colorado Revised Statutes allowed for the Authority to collect a telephone tariff, not to exceed 70 cents per month per telephone line, to pay for the installation, and continuous operation of the Enhanced 911 System. Collection of that tariff started in 1992 and has continued since that time. The Statutes also required the Authority Board to set the tariff for the coming year by September of the preceding year. Members of the El Paso – Teller County Enhanced 911 Authority were chosen and appointed by the El Paso County Commissioners, following the requirements as set forth in the Intergovernmental Agreement. Meetings were held monthly as the Authority began to plot the future of the Enhanced 911 System in the two counties.

As was required in the Inter-governmental Agreement, a technical committee was created, with representatives from all the agencies identified as Public Safety Answering Points within the IGA. This committee began to review the equipment of the various vendors in preparation of making recommendations to the Authority.  The Authority members quickly realized the size and scope of this project, and a “Request for Proposal” was issued for a consultant that could manage the installation of this project.

On the March25th, 1992, the El Paso – Teller County Authority entered into contract with RAM Communications Consultants, Inc. (RAM)  to complete the installation of the Enhanced 911 System within the two counties. RAM went about gathering information required to prepare and issue a “Request for Proposal” for Installation of an Enhanced 911 System.  Three companies responded with bid proposals for this project.

American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) was selected as the successful vendor and on August 2nd, 1993, then Chairman of the Board, Sheriff Bernard Barry signed the contract. Installation of equipment began on September 1st, 1994 and continued through December of 1994. On that date, ten (10) Public Safety Answering Points were operational in El Paso and Teller Counties.

Progression of the Board and the 911 System

January 1995: System Manager

In late 1994, the Authority realized the need for a full time manager of the Enhanced 911 System. With the system operating within ten (10) Public Safety Answering Points scattered across the two counties and equipment valued in excess of two million dollars, the Authority realized that management was needed to assure the continuous day to day operation of the 911 system. The Colorado State Statutes were very clear that the Authority could not hire an employee for this responsibility. Consulting services are allowed under State Statute and in October of 1994, a “Request for Proposal” was issued for Consulting Service to manage the Enhanced 911 System. Two responses were received as a result of that RFP. A contract was signed with James Anderson, who later would start JKA Consulting, LLC, to provide the required System Management Services. Mr. Anderson and company have served the Authority through contract for four years and continue to do so under a new five-year contract.

AT&T Language Line Services

The ethnic diversity of the population of El Paso and Teller Counties soon became evident to the 911 Authority. The southern part of El Paso County contained a large German population, and it was apparent that many Asian and Spanish speaking people were moving to this region. On June 22nd, 1995 the Authority Board signed a contract with AT&T Language Line. Through the use of a toll-free number, interpreters became available to interpret from English into as many as 140 languages, seven days per week, twenty-four hours per day. This service has proven its value many times every month. Some twenty to thirty calls from the Enhanced 911 system continue to this service every month.

Update the Authority By-Laws

The Authority had created the By-laws as allowed under the terms of the Inter-governmental Agreement, but found it necessary to review those By-laws during August of 1996. A committee worked to prepare a revised By-Laws document. On August 27th, 1996 this revision was approved.

Update the Authority Board Purchasing Manual

As with the By-laws, the Authority felt it necessary to review the Purchasing Manual.  The original purchasing manual had followed the manual as prepared for the City of Colorado Springs. Having been reviewed by the Authority legal counsel, a revised Purchasing Manual was approved by Authority Resolution on October 22nd, 1996.

911 Contingency Plan

In the fall of 1996, the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC) established Rule 4 CCR 723-29-11. This rule required that every 911 Authority would prepare and keep current a contingency plan. This plan was to include information regarding service area, diverse routing, and other required information to keep 911 operational, should equipment and/or circuits fail. On September 25th, 1996 the Authority completed what has been described as the most complete “Contingency Plan” prepared in the State of Colorado. This document continues to be reviewed and updated annually.

Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD)

During 1996, several 911 systems across the United States received some unfavorable press regarding medical instructions provided over the 911 system. Allegations about some 911 systems not being able to provide CPR instructions and other life-savings techniques over the 911 telephones became headline news. Some Public Safety Answering Points in El Paso – Teller 911 system were using the Colorado State approved medical information, while others chose not to provide any medical information. The Authority determined that every 911 Public Safety Answering Point should be able to provide the needed medical information.

Information was gathered regarding this dilemma and it soon became apparent that the “Advanced Medical Priority Dispatch System” (AMPDS) provided a medically sound protocol. Charlotte Olsen of the Colorado Springs Dispatch Center had seen the system in operation and felt it should be thoroughly investigated. After spending several months, it was decided that this EMD system would provide additional services to the citizens of our two counties. This program contained a two-pronged approach- card sets by each call-taker and a computerized version that provides excellent records of the medical emergency.
On January 31st, 1997 a contract for implementation of both the card sets and computerized software, and all training required was signed by the Authority Chairman.

The EMD program also brought the addition of one staff member to the System Manager staff. This staff person, required to be a paramedic, handles the quality assurance work on the EMD program, teaches all EMD basic education (five days), writes and produces Continuing Education programs, and continues to provide remedial training as required.

Wireless 911 (FCC Rule and Order 94-102)

Technology in the world today has a great impact on our 911 system. With the advent of cellular communications, it was only a matter of time until true 911 services would be required. Remember, up to this point, every telephone serviced by 911 was at a fixed location, with a fixed address. Now telephone technology was moving, literally. Cellular 911 calls were coming into the Colorado Springs Police Communications Center on standard seven digit dial numbers. This meant that through the telephone system, these calls, traveled on regular “Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS). No priority was given to these lines when repair was needed. Wireless 911 was divided into two areas or phases as they are called in the Rule and Order.

Phase I: Phase one required the cellular and PCS companies to provide the ten digit telephone number and the location of the cellular tower, with face information to the 911 call-taker screen. April 1997 was the deadline for this service to begin, once requested by the Authority.

Phase II: Phase two requires the addition of latitude and longitude information to the items listed in Phase One. The original Rule and Order mandated this information to within 95 meters, but several efforts are underway to reduce this number.

Several problems were immediately apparent with the requirements of the Rule and Order. First, the FCC required a cost recovery program to be in place before service could be provided. That meant, local Authority Boards would have to pay the price for this new technology. In 1997, the Colorado State Statute § 29-11-101 through 105 was changed to allow collection on all wireless device lines and increased the upper limit of tariff collection to 70 cents.

The combination of Emergency Medical Dispatch and the Wireless 911 soon showed that new equipment was going to be mandatory in all the Public Safety Answering Points. The old 911 equipment was not capable of the mapping requirements that would become a standard part of phase two, and EMD required additional screen space for the various EMD displays. After much discussion with all the Public Safety Answering Point managers, it became apparent that the 911 equipment would have to transition to a single computer, with dual twenty-one (21) inch monitors. This also created an opportunity for Public Safety Answering Points to migrate to a windows-based CAD system. The end result is a single computer with the two monitors in front of every 911 call-taker. The single computer is taking care of all the computer functions at the call-taker locations, thus the call-taker does not have to switch from one computer system to another.

Nine, One, One, Inc, from Denver, Colorado was the successful bidder and signed a contract on July 31st, 1997 to begin updating all 911 equipment, using computer systems that were designed and purchase under separate contract, by the Authority.  All system updates were completed by May of 1998 and now all 911 computer systems at every Public Safety Answering Points is capable of handling any new technology that might become available.

Wireless Phase I Operation

Every county is allowed by FCC Rules the ability to have two cellular and five PCS companies operating in the county. As of September 1st, 1998, the first cellular company began sending 911 calls to our call-takers over dedicated 911 circuits. By the end of 1998, all companies should have completed Phase One installation. These installations did not come without significant legal work completed by the Authority attorney and the system manager. The FCC Rule and Order allowed for a contract for service between the Authority and every provider. No contracts were the same, and each had to be negotiated separately.

Wireless Phase II Operation

In order to be prepared for the final phase of wireless 911 dated for Oct. 2001, the Authority has been working diligently to validate the needed mapping and geo-coded databases to insure successful implementation. When completed in 2001, the El Paso – Teller County Enhanced 911 System will be capable of locating any wireless device that sends a 911 call, not only knowing what the latitude and longitude of the call is, but when available, the physical address of the location of the caller. The El Paso – Teller County Authority is strides ahead of other Authority’s within the State of Colorado and the United States.  Currently, the 911 Authority PSAP’s have the necessary data and software in place to receive and utilize any wireless location information that is provided with a wireless 911 call.

Information is posted when received by participating agencies. For further information, please contact us.