HYDE PARK – Lt. Governor Phil Scott brought together representatives of the E-911 Board and the state’s law enforcement and education communities to update Vermonters on an effort to bring all schools into compliance with E-911 standards.
At a press conference Tuesday at Hyde Park Elementary School, the leaders announced that statewide testing is roughly 75 complete. The effort began earlier this summer and should be wrapped up by the end of the year, according to David Tucker, Executive Director of Vermont E-911.
Local sheriffs and superintendents are traveling to each individual school and making test-calls from the phones in each office, classroom, lab, library and cafeteria, and asking the 911 dispatcher to verify how the room’s location appears on the computer screen. In many cases, that e-location doesn’t match the physical location of the phone, which would send first responders to the wrong place if the caller was unable to speak.
Lamoille County Sheriff Roger Marcoux discovered the problem when he made a couple of test calls at a local school. In one case, the address that appeared to the dispatcher wasn’t even at the school, but at the county superintendent’s office miles away. Marcoux suspected that the problem wasn’t confined to his county, and he was right -- so he and Tucker rallied support in the State House.
Lt. Governor Scott lobbied members of the Senate and House Institutions Committees to include a small funding line in the FY14 Capital Bill to finance the statewide testing effort. The Legislature approved a total of $20,000 for the project.
Tucker noted that more funding could be required to bring non-compliant schools into compliance, once the needs are identified. “What we’re working on right now is fixing the ‘low-hanging fruit,’ or those schools whose non-compliance can be easily resolved without large costs,” Tucker explained. “For other schools, compliance could require a telephone system upgrade. Until we have a handle on how many of those there are, we won’t have an exact cost-estimate, but we hope to have a more complete report for the Legislature this winter.”
About 25 second-graders joined the state leaders today at the podium, emphasizing the importance of the effort.
“Making sure that every school classroom is correctly identified to a 911 dispatcher in the event of an emergency is so critical to ensuring the safety of our students, teachers and school staff,” said Lt. Governor Scott. “None of us want to think about ‘the unthinkable’ happening in Vermont, but unfortunately, violent tragedies such as Sandy Hook can happen anywhere. And putting that possibility aside for a moment, there are many other types of emergencies that we also need to be prepared for. For example, what if the flooding we saw during Irene had happened on a school day?”
Scott, Tucker and Marcoux commended the strong collaboration of many players throughout state and local government to make this effort possible.