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Florida Lawmakers Push Bill To Improve 911 Response Time

Tallahassee police car
Urban Tallahassee

The Florida legislature is moving forward with a bill that aims to make first responders more efficient. 

Under the bill, 911 calls could be transferred between locations across the state.

And all public safety answering points should have the ability to communicate with first responders by radio. The Florida Police Chief Association’s Gary Hester says each county will be responsible for implementing the new policy.

“This would give us the ability to come up with a local solution to expedite the response and to do it at little to no cost as opposed to mandating it, all consoles have to be able to communicate with each other so we’re gonna leave that up to local control," Hester said. "We feel that they could come up with the best solution that meets their communities and be sure that we have a rapid response to any future tragedies if we happen to have them.”

The association is backing Democratic Representative Bobby DuBose’s bill. He says people have been hung up on when a dispatcher attempts to transfer them. Republican Representative Mike Caruso says this happened to him when his son was injured while on vacation.

“I put him in my car and drove him to the hospital down at the bottom of the mountain, whereupon fifteen minutes later I got a call and everyone was at the location where I had been," Caruso said. "This bill will save lives. Because it will save seconds and minutes for fire rescue, and for first responders.”

But there are concerns regarding how local citizens will be affected. Richard Pinsky, a lobbyist who represents emergency dispatchers, says that funding may be a concern.

“Yes, we appreciate the local control," Pinsky said. "However, funding is the issue, whether it’s state mandated or it’s gonna be shifted to the locals. The county commissions have been restricting budgets on both law enforcement and fire rescue and incrementally increases… There has to be some address to the funding to get this done.”

The bill is currently moving through the House and is now in the Appropriations committee in the Senate.

Casey Chapter is a graduate student at Florida State University studying Public Interest Media & Communication. She got her start in journalism at the FSView & Florida Flambeau, where she served as a reporter, News Editor, and eventually Managing Editor. She has previously reported on COVID-19 and K-12 education for the Tallahassee Democrat, and currently serves as the Managing Editor of the Florida Student News Watch, a journalism program that aims to get students and recent graduates' work published with a focus on environmental reporting.