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How Much Does 911 Cost?

How Much Does 911 Cost?

We get a lot of questions about how much 911 costs and where the financing comes from. Do citizens pay for 911? Do taxes? How do officials determine how much goes toward an emergency number program when they also have to consider other aspects of public safety?

We wanted to clear some things up on how much 911 costs. 

What is a 911 fee?

Pull up your latest phone bill. It can be for your landline (if you still have one) or a cell phone. Depending on your service provider, such as Verizon it may be in a different place, but if you review the itemized version of your “taxes and government fees” section of your bill, you’ll notice a charge titled “State 911 Fee,” or something similar. The only exception will be T-Mobile, who doesn’t mark the 911 fee, but it’s still there. That is how 911 is funded in your area. 

For the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District, the charge is $0.50. However, it could be more or less depending on what state you live in, which county within that state, and which city in that county. You can review a list of 911 fees by state here. It may vary based on the type of local government you have, or based on a decision made by your previous state legislator five years ago. It could change next time your state legislators meet for a session. The point we’re trying to make is that 911 funding is complicated and there is a lot of variation across the country, but we’ll go into some more detail about how it works in Texas to give you a better idea.

Who collects the fee?

You’ll see that the person you’re paying your hard earned cash to isn’t NCT9-1-1, but rather your individual service provider. How does it go from their hands to funding your safety and the safety of your community? That process will depend on what type of 911 entity your city or county is located in. To keep it simple, we’ll divide entities by districts (emergency communications districts and municipal emergency communications districts) and regional planning commissions.  

Texas 9-1-1 Entities Map

911 Districts

  • For Landlines

Landline fees may vary by district and are determined by a district’s board of managers, which is made up of elected or appointed officials within the district’s service area. You can review the NCT9-1-1 board of managers here. It is the responsibility of the service provider to collect landline fees and give them to the individual districts, but the district is responsible for informing the providers of its rates.

  • For Wireless

Wireless fees are consistent statewide. Everyone in Texas pays a $.50 911 fee for their mobile service, regardless of the 911 district they live in. The Texas State Comptroller collects these wireless fees from telephone carriers and places them into a trust fund to await distribution by the Commission on State Emergency Communications (CSEC). CSEC will then distribute those fees based on population.

Regional Planning Commissions

If you’re located in a RPC, your 911 fees are established by a statue (Health and Safety Code 771.071 to be specific) and both wireless and landline are collected by the service provider and then placed in the appropriate trust fund. From there, CSEC distributes the funds to RPC’s across the state based on a variety of factors.  

What is the funding used for?

The 911 fees at NCT9-1-1 are used for multiple kinds of projects including:

  • Vendors/services who provide equipment and technology to the 911 system. This can include mapping technology, call handling equipment, data storage, and more. 
  • Public education campaigns to bring awareness to proper 911 use.
  • Training and courses for new 911 telecommunicators and to maintain the licenses of veterans. Everything from crisis communications, to fire dispatch, to mental health awareness, to leadership training for managers and supervisors. 
  • A whole lot more that we couldn’t possibly list it all.

Depending on where you live, your local government agencies may have a different process for collecting 911 fees, but that’s a quick summary of how it works in Texas. For more information on our 911 program, visit the NCT9-1-1 FAQ.

What Is The Future of 911 Training In Texas?

What Is The Future of 911 Training In Texas?

As the new normal of our world is established, the 9-1-1 professionals and trainers in Texas have to start thinking about what we want our industry to grow into. Things are changing whether we want them to or not, but we can define how it changes by what we teach our 9-1-1 telecommunicators.

At the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District, we believe the future of 9-1-1 training goes beyond teaching the necessities. It even goes beyond understanding Next Generation 9-1-1, though we can’t ignore how NG continues to affect our world. We believe the next generation of 9-1-1 telecommunicators must be trained beyond the TCOLE-required skill sets. They also need 9-1-1 training courses that teach a passion for this career and the resilience to excel at it.

Can resilience be taught?

Can the skills we think 9-1-1 telecommunicators need be taught? Some may think resilience is a lesson you learn from experience, and that you will pick it up as a veteran after long nights and hours of difficult calls. It’s a right of passage to many, but this way of thinking won’t build better 9-1-1 telecommunicators. 

It’s important that 9-1-1 trainers encourage the teaching of resilience as a skill that new telecommunicators can learn. This mindset is the future of 9-1-1 training in Texas. This means trainers and veterans have to encourage this idea.   

Soft skills aren’t traditionally seen as valuable sometimes, but in this line of work knowing how to take a difficult call and bounce back to do it again the next day is just as important as being a diligent dispatcher. 

What builds resilience?

Resilience is a muscle that must be exercised to stay strong. Here is our list of the top five ways to build resilience. 

  • Normalize Mental Health

Mental health is no longer seen as a dirty word in the 9-1-1 industry, but that’s not true everywhere. Recognizing the importance of mental well-being is the first step to maintaining a positive outlook that will allow resilience to build over time.

  • Fight for Positivity

A healthy mental state is rarely something we have all of the time. It’s easy to be positive when things are going right, but staying upbeat when things are difficult shows true resilience.

  • Practice Adaptability 

This is not something people are born with. Just like any new skill, it must be practiced and repeated to build strength. Adaptability is a key aspect of resilience, but it will take time to make it a habit that can be relied on.

  • Lean On Peers

It’s too difficult to build new skills on you own, especially when you’re struggling to establish a healthy routine that allows you to build on your own mental well being. Trust your peers to support you when dealing with difficult work situations.

  • Be Kind to Yourself

The most important part of achieving any new life skill is having patience and kindness for yourself. This is especially true for 9-1-1 telecommunicators who are training to join this challenging but rewarding career. Remember to forgive and learn from your mistakes, to take time for your own mental well-being, and to show yourself kindness.

Our new program, Comprehensive Next Generation Training, focuses on building well-rounded, resilient 9-1-1 telecommunicators that have all of their state requirements and more for our region and Texas. Sign up for our training newsletter to receive information on future 9-1-1 training courses and review our current course schedule here.

Connect With Your Community During Quarantine Using Social Media: A Public Safety Professional’s Guide

Connect With Your Community During Quarantine Using Social Media: A Public Safety Professional’s Guide

Being active in your community is an important part of a public safety professional’s job. Protecting and serving also means being present at community events and caring about the citizens’ day-to-day activities and wanting to be a part of it all. But how do you show that commitment when community events have been cancelled and everyone is locked away inside their homes? 

Agencies need to let communities know that they are still there for them. But the tools that were available are now limited and we’re relying heavily on the internet to reach out. How do you make a one-to-one connection on the internet?

Social Media was Built For This

The world is in uncharted territory. It’s been almost 100 years since a disease had a global impact like the coronavirus, but our ancestors didn’t have a tool that could connect you to anything with the click of a button. The internet is a gamechanger in how we’ve responded to the virus.

It’s easy to get caught up in the negativity online during these times, but public safety professionals are symbols for their communities and can use online tools to make their citizens feel connected. Fortunately, social media was built to create personable, one-to-one interaction between people in a virtual world. You can leverage your social media accounts to connect your followers with content that is educational and entertaining and that makes your citizens feel like they know you.

Types of Content

There are lots of ways to connect with your audience online through social media. You’re not limited to photos of community events! From videos to infographics to even a well-chosen meme, the options are endless. Videos, in particular, are on the rise.

You don’t have to be a Hollywood producer to create a decent video for your social media pages. A good video can be simple, short, and informative. Interview some of you staff members about what your agency is doing to keep people safe during these times. Talk about the steps you’ve taken to encourage social distancing. Offer tips citizens can utilize to stay safe when visiting grocery stores or picking up takeout. 

Live videos on Facebook have become hugely popular and are favored in the platform’s algorithm, which means more people will see them over a traditional video format. Groups are also about to be highly promoted by Facebook and we can anticipate seeing a bit of favoritism toward content posted in groups, so consider starting a community group or, if one already exists, joining with your agency’s official page. Be active in any groups you join or launch by posting videos, resharing interesting blogs or articles, and commenting on posts.

Some other content ideas include:

  • Host a live Q&A. Pro Tip: Have someone hosting the video and another person behind the scenes responding to questions in the comments. Don’t forget to advertise to your followers before the day of so you can get them excited about attending!
  • Encourage user-sourced content. Request that your citizens send you photos of how they’re keeping busy during shelter in place mandates or reshare how your local ISDs are encouraging parents to keep learning going. User-sourced content can offer an endless amount of opportunities.
  • Have your chief or sheriff host a Chief’s Corner once a week to talk about the state of your community and what your agency is doing to keep everyone safe. The fireside chats were popular for a reason!   
  • Engage with your community through comments. If someone comments on your post, respond! Even if it’s just to say thank you. This will make your followers feel appreciated and willing to comment again! 

Voice and Tone

A unique voice is important when establishing a connection with an online audience. That doesn’t mean you have to be a novelist, just embrace your community’s personality. Small town charm? Big city expertise? Somewhere in the middle? Whatever you are, find it and be consistent. 

Your tone, however, is different. Tone is how your voice varies across social media platforms. Your tone on Twitter, for example, would be more casual than your tone on Facebook. 

If you’re not sure what your social media voice is, find it by sitting down with your team and writing key words or phrases that describe your community and your agency. Make a list and figure out what ties those keywords together. If you can pick just one word to describe you, that’s your voice. 

Don’t let your commitment to community engagement slide just because events and gatherings have been postponed. Utilize social media to make the same kind of connections your agency was making in person so you don’t fall out of touch with your community when you return!         

Can you text 9-1-1? Or, more importantly, should you?

Can you text 9-1-1? Or, more importantly, should you?

Can you text 9-1-1? There are very few people out there who know that text-to-9-1-1 is an option, but we’re not surprised. Texting 9-1-1 is a relatively new feature in the industry (hard to believe, but true) and it’s fairly advanced technology for most public safety answering points (PSAPs or 9-1-1 call centers).

The North Central Texas Emergency Communications District has had text since January of 2013, but it is also available in other parts of North Texas outside of our service area. If you want to find out if text is available in your area, you’ll need to contact your local law enforcement agency. Try dialing their 10-digit emergency number or checking their website.

Text-to-9-1-1 is a useful tool and has been adopted by agencies all over the country, but it’s not as good as a voice call to 9-1-1. There are a lot of reasons telecommunicators prefer that you call rather than text, and it’s about more than a personal preference.  

  • Background Noise

Telecommunicators are not trained to just ask you questions and write down the answers. They are first responders who observe through listening what’s happening in an emergency, and you’d be surprised what they can pick up on. There have been many cases of 9-1-1 call takers receiving calls where the caller can’t speak freely and the telecommunicator must use his or her skills to identify the emergency situation. That ability is lost through a text, and it’s one of the main reasons telecommunicators have divided opinions about text-to-9-1-1 as a tool.

  • Immediate Replies

There’s nothing more frustrating than those three dots at the bottom of your phone when you’re waiting for a text. Now imagine that scenario but someone’s life is on the line. Texting is a slower communication tool and call takers have to wait for your response before they can take action. During a call, things move a lot faster. Even if a caller is interrupted mid sentence, telecommunicators can use their training to pick up on the background noise to identify key details of the scene. If you just stop texting, then they’ll never know.

  • Tone of Voice

If you’ve ever been on the phone with someone and they’re saying one thing but the way they’re saying it clearly means something else, then you know exactly what we’re talking about. Your tone says a lot about how you’re feeling, and if you’re in an emergency and panicking, sometimes the right words just won’t come to you. But the training and skill of 9-1-1 telecommunicators allow them to identify those cues and coach you through answering their questions. If you’re texting them, they may not be able to pick up on those subtle differences.   

So, when should you text 9-1-1? And how do you do it?

We obviously believe text-to-9-1-1 is useful despite its limitations or else we wouldn’t have been one of its early adopters. But we think you should only use it if you are hard of hearing or Deaf, have a speech impairment, or if you are in a situation where it would be unsafe for you to speak, such as during a home invasion where talking would give away your location to an intruder. 

can you text 911?

You can text 9-1-1 the same way you text anyone else. Open your messaging feature, enter “911” into the “To:” field, and type out your message. If texting is not available in your area, you’ll receive a bounceback message prompting you to call. To receive a quick response, you should include in your text your location (as specific as you can make it), the type of emergency, and what kind of services you need (police, fire, or EMS). Answer all of the telecommunicator’s questions and stay alert in case more information is requested.

Why is text-to-9-1-1 not available nation-wide?

The answer to that is pretty simple: it’s complicated.

A PSAP can’t support text until they have begun to adapt to what we call in the business Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1). NG9-1-1 is about adopting IP-based technology within the PSAP and moving away from analog tech, which is where the majority of the country still is. However, adapting your technology means purchasing new equipment and some PSAPs just can’t afford that. At the same time, other PSAPs are concerned that updating their technology may open up their center for things to go wrong. Text capabilities can also be a little controversial to some. Calling, all of us emergency number professionals agree, is always going to be better. So, some centers wonder why having text is necessary if we want to encourage calling in the first place.  

At the end of the day, each PSAP has to decide what works best for their telecommunicators, their technology, and their citizens. There isn’t a formula for the perfect 9-1-1 center, and different PSAPs have to think about different variables that might affect them.  

We at NCT9-1-1 have had text-to-9-1-1 since 2013. If you are a resident of our region or visiting, you can text 9-1-1 from anywhere in our service area. However, you should only text if you are Deaf or hard of hearing, have a speech impairment, or if it is too dangerous for you to call. Call if you can, text if you can’t.

NCT9-1-1 Service Area
Collin County
Excluding cities of Plano, Richardson, and Wylie

Dallas County
Only cities of Balch Springs, Cockrell Hill, Sachse, Seagoville, and Wilmer

Erath County

Ellis County
Excluding cities of Ennis, Glenn Heights, and Mansfield

Hood County

Hunt County

Johnson County
Excluding cities of Burleson and Mansfield

Kaufman County

Navarro County

Palo Pinto County

Parker County
Excluding city of Azle

Rockwall County

Somervell County

Wise County