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'Next Generation' 911 system goes online in Utah

911 operators answer calls at the Valley Emergency Communications Center on Oct. 26, 2012, in West Valley City. Utah Communications Authority announced the completion of the Utah Next Generation 911 system upgrade on Tuesday.

911 operators answer calls at the Valley Emergency Communications Center on Oct. 26, 2012, in West Valley City. Utah Communications Authority announced the completion of the Utah Next Generation 911 system upgrade on Tuesday. (Tom Smart, Deseret News)


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SALT LAKE CITY — When a person calls 911, it is assumed that help will be sent.

But what if there is an outage, or what if a victim is in a position that texting 911 is the only option?

"It's one of those things most citizens never think about, but when you do, it's good to have a state-of-the-art system," said Quin Stephens, executive director and general counsel of the Utah Communications Authority.

On Tuesday, Stephens announced the completion of the Utah Next Generation 911 system upgrade. The announcement marks the completion of a three-year project aimed at replacing Utah's 911 call-taking equipment — including servers and software handling 911 calls — and upgrading all of the phone circuits that carry 911 traffic.

Stephens said the new equipment has actually been in use for several months but Utah Communications Authority waited until Tuesday, after having the chance to work out any potential bugs, to make the announcement.

The new system is internet-based and will allow emergency dispatchers to receive information that the old 911 system couldn't provide, such as more precise locations of callers, text messages, videos and pictures. The new system also provides multiple backups, so if one area has a 911 outage, it can be picked up by other areas.

"Utah now has a system that is ready, whenever telephone service providers are ready, to accept more advanced data streams," said Melanie Crittenden, the 911 division director for the Utah Communications Authority.

The ability to send pictures and videos to 911 throughout Utah will be coming in the future, Stephens said.

"The completion of this project is a substantial leap forward when it comes to public safety communications and is a significant milestone for Utah," he said.

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Pat Reavy is a longtime police and courts reporter. He joined the KSL.com team in 2021, after many years of reporting at the Deseret News and KSL NewsRadio before that.

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