Lawmakers have found a solution for a problem that went unnoticed at many Vermont schools, but it won't be an easy fix. As schools install new phone systems, they are also required to comply with the Enhanced 911 Board requirements.
"Unfortunately what's happened is some of the schools in Vermont -- and some private businesses -- have not maintained their compliance with the requirement to provide the location information," said David Tucker, the Executive Director of E-911.
That location information helps first responders quickly track which school or classroom a phone call is coming from. But many school districts have centralized phone systems, so that no matter where in the district the call originates, the same address is displayed. Often that address is the district office, which could be miles away from the school.
Now the challenge is fixing the problem.
"What we've been doing over the last couple weeks is coming up with a plan to work with the schools through the secretary of education and others, to make sure that over the summer we get as many of these schools back into compliance as possible," Tucker said.
But the process of locating every school that isn't in compliance with E-911's requirements isn't easy. Police officers will be going into every classroom and dialing 911 to find out if the correct address shows up on the other end. Williston Central and Allen Brook are two of the Chittenden South schools that will be working this summer to update their newly installed phone systems.
"The programming process the week of June 25th will take four days, so over the course of four days we'll reprogram all the phones," said Mike Kanfer with CSSU.
And after all 250 classroom phones at the two schools are updated, the schools will take additional steps to make it easier for first responders to track an emergency call. "We're going to prepare a map and on the map we're going to have each room and in the room all the phone numbers that are in the room so they'll be able to come here and walk right to the room," Kanfer said.
And with the updated system comes new costs. The House Appropriations Committee has designated $75,000 to make all schools in Vermont E-911 compliant but the annual cost of upkeep for that system will be left up to the schools. That cost could be somewhere around $200 per year per school, but supporters say that's small cost that could prevent a big problem.
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