22 Aug 2014
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Should 911 Cell Phone Calls Be Sent Directly to City?

Waukesha aldermen to discuss possible ordinance in an attempt to stop 911 cell phone calls being first sent to the Waukesha County emergency communications center.

Should 911 Cell Phone Calls Be Sent Directly to City?

Editor's Note: This article was updated at 7:45 p.m. Monday with the outcome of the Ordinance and License Committee meeting.

Waukesha aldermen will examine the possibility of having 911 cell phone calls routed directly to the City of Waukesha’s dispatch center instead of first being routed through the Waukesha County emergency communications center.

Emergency calls made from cell phones are currently routed to the county’s dispatch center. The county then forwards the phone calls to the city’s dispatch center. The issue came up earlier this year when Waukesha considered consolidating its dispatch center with the county’s dispatch center.

The average delay in 2011 was 63 seconds, with more than 60 percent of 911 calls coming from cell phones, Acting Fire Chief Steve Howard wrote earlier this year in a two-page letter to Common Council President Joe Pieper.

Waukesha aldermen voted against the consolidation, but some were unhappy that the 911 cell phone calls were being delayed instead of immediately going to the city’s dispatch center.

The Ordinance and License Committee planned to discuss the issue Monday night. However, the discussion was delayed because of procedural-related confusion. The issue may need to go directly to the Common Council for a resolution and then return to the committee for an ordinance, said Alderman Steve Johnson, who chairs the committee.

Johnson said the issue needs to be looked into and he plans to clarify with the city attorney’s office about the proper procedure to review the request.  

“I’ve had some conflicting information,” Johnson said.

Waukesha isn’t the only community to face this problem. Muskego officials are in a fight to release the 911 calls directly to Muskego's dispatch center as well.

A complaint from Muskego made to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) yielded a 'no decision' earlier this year, and until now wireless carriers have said that they won't make the change unless there is a rule in place. Muskego has passed an ordinance in attempts to put that rule in place.

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