EMERGENCY RESPONSE SERVICES: Background and Motivation 7

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For example, consider Berks County, Pennsylvania, whose 1990 population was 336,000. Berks County reports that the capital start-up costs of its E911 system were approximately $3 million, while annual operating costs were over $2.3 million.5 Its budget comes primarily from a tax on telephone lines ($.97 per line each month) as authorized by state legislation (Figure 2 shows the national distribution of funding sources for 911 systems). The Berks County 911 program employs nine call-takers, two administrators, a programmer for its computer-aided dispatching software, and an administrative assistant. more

In addition to capital costs, there are other factors which affect the adoption of 911 systems; we explored these motivations in informal interviews of administrators and regulators in several states. We found that in smaller counties, early adoption of E911 was often the result of the actions of a highly self-motivated and informed government employee. Because many different public and private agencies are involved in the implementation process (the post office, utility companies, and telephone companies), political factors and bureaucratic barriers may slow adoption. While in large counties, there may be personnel assigned exclusively to this task, smaller counties tend to assign the same personnel to many different tasks, and the incentives as well as information required to organize an effort for adoption may be lacking. The adoption of a centralized 911 system may lead small, local police departments, as well as private ambulance dispatching services, to lose employment as well as local autonomy; these agencies may be able to block adoption. Finally, as a publicly provided service, public demand for the system will also play a role, where this demand depends not only on factors such as income, but also on the political views of the citizens about government services. more