Lawmakers Tour Tulsa 911 Center To Understand Struggles
TULSA, Oklahoma - The Oklahoma House passed a bill that would help increase funding for 911 call centers across the state. It now goes to the Senate.
Friday, local lawmakers toured the Tulsa 911 dispatch center to learn about the struggles dispatchers face.
When you call 911 it's an emergency, so getting put on hold can be a shock, but it's something that's been happening in Tulsa.
Thankfully, representatives like Ken Walker say House Bill 3126 could help change that.
Walker said, "I think when somebody calls 911 they expect an immediate response and they don't expect to be put on hold."
He and other area lawmakers went on a tour of Tulsa's 911 dispatch center Friday.
City 911 director, Terry O’Malley said the 911 system there needs to improve and she desperately needs more dispatchers but doesn't have the money.
"So our call volume over the past ten years has doubled, so I've got declining revenues and increasing need for service levels, and there's the rub," she said.
The declining revenues come from fewer people with landlines.
Home phones pay a majority of the 911 fees in Oklahoma, but with more and more people going to cell phones only, money coming in has fallen, and cell phones haven't picked up the slack.
O'Malley said, "Cellphone fees or revenues from cellphone fees have not really matched that decline in landline fees."
That's because cellphones don't pay nearly as much per phone - roughly 50 cents a line compared to more than $1 per landline.
House Bill 3126 would add an additional 25 cents per cell line - making cellphone fees around 75 cents - bringing the average back up closer to what it was ten years ago.
"This is important for the whole state of Oklahoma," O’Malley said.
Walker said it's a small price to pay to ensure your call gets to a dispatcher faster.
"That's terrifying, especially if you're the victim of a crime, witnessing a crime or seeing a crime, or if you're having a health issue, an immediate health issue. I think to be put on hold you become even more terrified," he said.
O’Malley said this bill would fix that terrifying situation and bring her 911 center up to date and fully staffed.
You can learn more about HB 3124 here.