File photo of Juneau Capital City Fire/Rescue firefighters at work. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

File photo of Juneau Capital City Fire/Rescue firefighters at work. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

State pursues plan to modernize rural 911 system

The move will hopefully help public safety crisis in remote areas

The Alaska Department of Public Safety has two initiatives to consolidate and update emergency communications across the state.

“In 80% of the state, if you call 911, you’ll get routed through a bunch of trunks and end up in Fairbanks. One of our patrol detachments is bigger than the state of Texas,” said Leon Morgan, the deputy commissioner for the Alaska DPS, in a phone interview. “If we don’t know where you are, we can’t respond. We’re doing the best we can to give service to our citizens no matter where they are in the state.”

The initiatives will make it so that anyone who calls 911 in Alaska will have their location immediately identified, as long as they’re in cell service range, Morgan said. The protocol is called Enhanced 911, and is present throughout the Lower 48 and in urban centers in Alaska. However, Morgan said, rural Alaska is lagging behind.

[Coast Guard suspends search for Sitka kayaker]

“The city of Juneau has a very modern, professional emergency communication service. In our rural areas, in Southeast Alaska, we don’t have that technology,” Morgan said. “You can buy something on Amazon, but if you dial 911, we still don’t know where you are. This will change that.”

The initiatives have two main angles of attack. The first is to give all Alaska telecom providers a year’s warning on the six month notice to update and comply with the new standard. The second is to build a new Emergency Communication Center, a dispatch center for 911 calls, located in Anchorage, to consolidate and streamline dispatch centers in the surrounding areas and support the existing ECC in Fairbanks.

“We’re giving them a year advance of their six-month letter,” Morgan said. “We’re spinning up our communication centers, and two, we want to be good partners.”

Morgan said the initiatives will help the public safety crisis in the rural areas of Alaska by allowing dispatch centers to send law enforcement and public safety personnel to precisely where they need to go, spreading the updated network to the 80% percent of the state that isn’t currently covered by the new protocol.

“We live it every day. We are rural police. We feel it every day. This is a critical component in alleviating some of those rural policing problems,” Morgan said. “Giving those people in rural Alaska the same E911 coverage as the rest of the state.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of May 18

Here’s what to expect this week.

Dave Scanlan, general manager of Eaglecrest Ski Area, speaks to the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly Finance Committee on April 13, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Dave Scanlan forced out as Eaglecrest’s general manager, says decision ‘came as a complete shock to me’

Resort’s leader for past 7 years says board seeking a “more office-process, paper-oriented” manager.

The entrance to the Alaska Gasline Development Corp.’s Anchorage office is seen on Aug. 11, 2023. The state-owned AGDC is pushing for a massive project that would ship natural gas south from the North Slope, liquefy it and send it on tankers from Cook Inlet to Asian markets. The AGDC proposal is among many that have been raised since the 1970s to try commercialize the North Slope’s stranded natural gas. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Eight young Alaskans sue to block proposed trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline

Plaintiffs cite climate change that harms their access to fish, wildlife and natural resources.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Tuesday, May 21, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A Shell station in Anchorage. (Nathaniel Herz/Northern Journal)
Shell abandons North Slope oil leases, raising questions about the industry’s future in Alaska

Experts say some of the state’s hard-to-tap oil prospects are becoming less attractive.

Tom Abbas discusses the hose his boat needs as shop owner and vintage halibut jacket provider Jim Geraghty shows his customer the options. Racks of dry-cleaned woolen jackets hang among the marine supply aisles in Gerahgty’s Lemon Creek business. (Laurie Craig / Juneau Empire)
Coats of many colors: Halibut jackets make a big splash again

“Pre-owned” wool garments from many decades ago being tracked down for resale by Juneau marine shop.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Monday, May 20, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

The Columbia state ferry sails through Lynn Canal on Monday, April 29, 2019. (Alex McCarthy / Juneau Empire file photo)
Columbia ferry out of service until end of the year

51-year-old ship has been out of service since November; corrosion in fire system cited for delay.

Most Read