Eastern Shore gets federal money to overhaul 911 system

Posted at 3:11 PM, Apr 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-18 18:06:57-04

ACCOMAC, Va. - The Eastern Shore is getting $8.2 million in federal dollars to overhaul the region's 911 system, which local leaders say is much needed.

Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) presented local leaders and first responders with a ceremonial check on Monday morning.

"That call has to get to somebody, so making that investment for this system was truly a no-brainer," Luria said.

Right now, if someone dials or texts 911, dispatchers can communicate with first responders. There are four communication systems on the Eastern Shore the first responders use to communicate with each other, depending on their agency.

Local leaders say there are coverage issues in remote areas.

"Communications is a huge part of public safety," said Jeffrey Flournoy, the director of the 911 center. "A regional system for everyone is kind of the big picture here."

A consultant issued a report a few years ago that found the area's 911 system could lead to potentially life-threatening scenarios, local leaders said.

"A deputy who's inside a house or chasing a suspect or a police officer if they can't be heard - yes, that can be a life-threatening situation," said Flournoy.

Changing the system will mean first responders can more easily communicate with different agencies and it will cut down on coverage issues. It will also help law enforcement receive things like cellphone pictures of suspects, so they can respond faster.

It will take about two years for the new system to be fully up and running, and Flournoy says the changes are necessary.

"They're operating on older technology - analog systems," he said. "I don't want the public to feel like they're being underserved, but it needs to work better and more efficiently."

The money is coming from the recently passed appropriations bill. Luria also visited other projects receiving money. An affordable housing project is getting $500,000, and $2.5 million will help convert old train tracks into a trail in Cape Charles.

Related: People can now text 911 during an emergency: 'It is a game changer,' say Newport News Police