New law requires Oklahoma communities to offer 911 service

Thursday, August 8th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKARCHE, Okla. (AP) _ A new law that goes into effect next month will require Oklahoma communities like Okarche and others across the nation to provide 911 service.

Residents of the Canadian County town are among the last in the state to be without the emergency call service, which has been used in other states since the late 1960s.

The Association of Central Oklahoma Governments is coordinating 911 service for the western part of the county after area residents approved a fee to fund it.

``There were in excess of 150 numbers in central Oklahoma you'd have to remember for police, fire or EMS (emergency medical services),'' said Stephen Willoughby, 911 coordinator for the association. ``Now you have to remember one.''

The new federal law, which goes into effect on Sept. 11, requires someone to answer a 911 call no matter where a person calls from, said Trish Weedn, Oklahoma Association of Regional Councils executive director.

Technological limits kept western Canadian County from having 911 service, but the eastern part of the county has had the service for 14 years.

In 1988, residents in eastern Canadian County agreed to pay 3 percent of their basic telephone costs to fund the system. Residents in the western part of the county approved a 5 percent cost March 14, 2000.

Geary, Union City and Okarche don't have 911 service, while Calumet was added to the service last week. Workers are providing physical addresses for homes that originally were identified by rural routes.

The cost for western Canadian County's first year of 911 service is about $88,000, Willoughby said. That doesn't include the answering equipment already purchased, which cost more than $100,000.

Customers will pay about 70 cents per month for each telephone line.

Other Oklahoma communities without 911 service include Purcell in McClain County, and Chattanooga and Edgewater Park in Comanche County.

Comanche county residents passed a tax in 1994 to fund the service for Chattanooga and Edgewater Park, but residents there are still without the service. It was supposed to go online in January.

Kingfisher added 911 service in January.

Exactly how many Oklahoma communities are without 911 service is unknown. Oklahoma Department of Public Safety officials say they are working on a database of communities without 911, but won't have figures until the end of August.

``There are still a lot of rural areas that don't have 911 service,'' Weedn said.

About 6 percent of the United States does not have 911 service, according to a report by the National Emergency Number Association.

The areas not covered - about 231 counties - lack the money to fund 911 service.