READING, Pa. – The Berks County commissioners voted Thursday to allow for the transition to the next generation of 911 services (NG911) by allowing vendors and agencies to access the county’s existing 911 data.
Brian Gottschall, director of the Berks County Department of Emergency Services, said 911 calls are being operated with the same technology as was used in the 1980s.
“The state is moving to an IP (internet protocol) delivery of 911 calls,” Gottschall said. “Instead of using the common conventional telephone lines, in the future, the calls will be coming through IP activity. All calls will be aggregated at the state level and delivered in an emergency services network to all the 911 centers.”
The action taken by the commissioners will allow the state and consultants to access existing data to develop a cost analysis for the technology upgrades.
A commenter during the public comment portion of the meeting questioned whether response times would be delayed if calls are going to be first collected by the state.
Gottschall clarified, saying the process does not involve a centralized call center at the state level.
“This is a behind-the-scenes technical process to route calls to the proper 911 center,” Gottschall said. “The calls will be as instantaneous as they are today, but this will create efficiencies. Today, when you make a call from a cell phone, the possibility exists that the call gets routed to the wrong call center. In the next generation, the confusion goes away because all calls will be delivered appropriately. This is a technical process from state to county.”
Gottschall said the state is in the early stages of planning and that the county would be hearing more details about NG911 over the next six months.
In another matter, three members of the public criticized the commissioners for retaining adults and children at the county-owned Berks County Residential Center.
The facility temporarily houses families that are in the United States illegally. It is leased by the federal government to house undocumented families going through the process of seeking asylum.
City resident Becky Ellis, a frequent commenter and a member of the Reading School Board, raised health concerns for the 13 children and adults being held at the center.
“The children and adults that are being imprisoned against their will were potentially exposed to COVID-19 on Oct. 9 by an employee at the facility who tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 12,” Ellis said. “The commissioners have the power to end this needless suffering of families by releasing them from this facility. This is about humanity, common decency and doing the right thing.”
Commissioner Christian Y. Leinbach corrected the claim and said the individual who tested positive was not a county employee but an outside vendor.
“All CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines are being followed with that facility,” Leinbach said.