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Alaska advisory board created for 911 dispatch service

Published: Mar. 24, 2022 at 7:21 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - An ongoing debate across Alaska over the past few years about how to improve emergency dispatch service has resulted in an administrative order from Gov. Mike Dunleavy to establish the Alaska 911 Advisory Board.

A press release issued by the governor’s office Thursday said the board “will help improve public safety response” across the state.

The press release also stated that this is the first time an effort has been made to bring together a permanent place for all 911 stakeholders — such as first responders and local governments — to present ideas and plan a process to improve the 911 system. Dunleavy previously issued administrative order 320 creating the 9-1-1 and Dispatch Consolidation Working Group in 2020.

Dunleavy’s plan charges the advisory board with improving 911 services in rural Alaska to allow dispatchers to track the exact location of emergency calls made from cellphones.

“Declared disasters occur in Alaska every 90 days,” Dunleavy said in the press release. “Personal emergencies happen every day in urban centers and in villages and beyond. It’s imperative that our emergency response is comprehensive and coordinated statewide.”

This shift in emergency dispatch services has been controversial in the past. Municipal officials such as Ketchikan Gateway Borough Mayor Rodney Dial worry that a centralized system will leave their communities off the road system unprotected.

“Our dispatchers need to know places that are not on maps, they need to be able to know who they can contact in a community to respond to an emergency, and you lose all of that once you start consolidating dispatch centers out of different regions,” Dial said.

State lawmakers who have had concerns in the past hope this new board will help find a solution. Senate President Peter Micciche said he hopes public safety agencies, local governments, Alaska Native entities, rural areas, and telecommunication companies can work together to find the holes in the system and make it better.

“We’ve never been against moving forward together,” Micciche said. “What we were against was moving forward with a plan that seemed to completely discount the significant benefits of the partnership between the state and the municipalities, and I would expect that this effort will be a much better example of us moving forward together.”

The board will consist of 13 voting members, one non-voting member, and two ex-officio members. Among the members will be communication center managers for both rural and urban dispatch centers.

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