A legislative effort to make California’s 9-1-1 system more efficient for wireless callers was signed into law by Gov. Brown on August 29. Introduced by Assemblymember Das Williams, AB 1564 contributes to the broader effort to route emergency calls from wireless phones to the nearest public safety office instead of the system’s default California Highway Patrol dispatch center (unless the call is made from a California highway or freeway).
Routing 9-1-1 calls through the CHP is an antiquated system, set up in the 1970s as car phones started becoming more common. “The 9-1-1 system didn’t keep up with the proliferation of cell phones,” said Santa Barbara Fire Department Chief Pat McElroy, who helped spearhead the update effort with Williams and Angelo Salvucci, a county emergency services medical director. The goal, McElroy added, “is to make sure that when you call 9-1-1, your call is handled once.”
In that respect, McElroy said he will ask the California Office of Emergency Services for data on call routing in Santa Barbara County, which will be examined for flaws. Williams said the new law provides traction toward improving the system, but emphasized that “when people have to call 9-1-1, they should use a landline whenever possible,” because the caller’s address is automatically available to the dispatcher.