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As cellular phone usage has increased the emergency response systems in rural areas has found itself being jammed with over use while the traditional wired trunk lines go unused. Unfortunately, balancing the cost of adding new wireless trunks line in order to meet the new demand has to be balanced against the cost of maintaining the old wired trunk lines. Due to the fact that cell phone coverage is not universally available in rural areas, traditional wired phone access is still needed so rural areas must still adequately meet the needs of both technologies, the old and the new. (Kurtis)
The new E-911 system is an enhanced version of the old 911 system. The advance of wireless technology has allowed the transmission of more information in a much more efficient manner. Under the E-911 system, the 911 operator can easily identify the telephone number of the person calling and any stored information regarding the location of the caller. The addition of this information makes the dispatch of the emergency response team much quicker and more accurate.
Enhanced 911 service is a wonderful addition to the arsenal of emergency response teams everywhere but it is particularly beneficial to the teams located in rural areas. The new system will allow for more rapid and accurate location of motor vehicle crashes in areas where locating the site was often difficult and will also provide enhanced transmission of crash information that should serve to help emergency responders predict the seriousness of injuries.
The implementation of the new E-911 system has raised significant concerns across the board, in the wake of the events of 9/11, security concerns have become of paramount concern. Maintaining domestic preparedness and the consequential process of providing emergency services has received extensive interest among the public and private sectors. This resulting interest and concern has caused additional financial pressure on rural areas. One additional wireless device, however, the increased use of GPS mapping systems has allowed rural areas to improve their services at little additional cost.
Due to improvements in technology and the wide scale availability of worldwide satellite enabled navigation GPS use has become a very inexpensive method for dispatching emergency responders. This has been a godsend to the emergency management and response industry particularly in rural areas. Unlike cell phones and the internet, GPS tracking devices are not dependent on the construction of new towers and do not need integration with a centralized system. With GPS emergency response teams can quickly find crash sites and emergency need locations in areas that often lack signs, street names and house numbers. With the properly installed software a GPS system can guide emergency vehicles to any legally defined land location in a fraction of the time under the old system of using maps and/or directional assistance from the witnesses or victims and for rural areas already strapped for funding the cost of a fully equipped GPS system is minimal.
Another system attracting attention is an offshoot of the GPS mapping system. This new system, which is known as Geographic Information Systems (GIS) promises to provide emergency response teams with additional data that developers are promising will enhance the quality of services that emergency responders will be able to provide. Through the use of the GIS system emergency care providers will be able to not only locate specific locations they will also be able collect data from a variety of sources, organize said data into a usable format, and efficiently disseminate the information to those you need it. Developers of the GIS program are promising that the system will reduce response time, eliminate redundancy, streamline the allocation of personnel and resources, and provide crucial information for planning future operations. Presently coordinating GIS technology with GPS technology is still in the developmental stage and the cost of implementing a GIS system is a factor for a rural communities. Therefore GPS usage is a far more practical solution but, long-range, GIS provides far more options for rural communities. The use of GIS technology will eventually allow emergency service personnel in rural areas a wide range of tracking options that they presently do not enjoy.
Technology has changed many aspects of everyone's life in the last half of the twentieth century and beginning of the twenty-first century. Changes have come so rapidly that is nearly impossible to keep abreast of the newest developments. Unfortunately, the cost of these new technologies has been high and it has therefore been difficult for many segments of our society to afford the implementation of these advancements.
In the rural areas of our country the funding of technological advances has been only a part of the problem. In addition to the costs there is the additional problem of geography. Modern technology has inherent problems such as the need for transmission towers that make the widespread use of cell phones and the internet difficult. Convincing cell phone and internet providers to build up their transmission facilities in densely populated areas is a difficult proposition. These providers are driven by profit and the capital costs cannot be off-set by potential profits in rural areas. The federal government through FCC funding has been attempting to encourage rural cell phone and internet access but the downturn in the national economy has caused this program to be curtailed.
Wireless technology could be a major help in improving the delivery and quality of emergency services in rural areas but it is an uphill battle that will time and money. As technology continues to improve and capital costs decrease, the expansion of wireless services to rural areas is likely to improve. Until then rural areas will have to struggle with what they presently have available.
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Federal Communications Commission. (2010). Wireless 911 Services. Washington D.C.: FCC.
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