Sen. Nelson calls for modernization of 911 system

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U.S. Senator Bill Nelson addressed the Florida delegation breakfast on Tuesday, July 26, 2016, during the Democratic National Convention. (Stan Chambers Jr./WINK News)

NAPLES, Fla. The 911 system in Collier County has a feature Sen. Bill Nelson wants to take nationwide.

AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon users can send a text to “911” in Collier County with details of their emergency. Nelson, D-Fla., introduced a bill Thursday that would expand a federal grant program designed to help bring that and other upgrades to 911 systems across the U.S.

Nelson’s plan would also encourage local governments to add the ability to send photos and videos, a function that isn’t currently available on Collier’s system.

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Another tenet of the legislation would make systems more resilient during disasters like Hurricane Irma. The storm affected 29 centers that answer emergency calls in Florida, and 14 of them weren’t able to reroute to neighboring systems, Federal Communications Commission data shows.

Centers in Collier County, Naples, Fort Myers, Lee County, Glades County, Hendry County and Highlands County were among the 14.

Nelson’s legislation would require states to study how to protect 911 systems from natural disasters and cyber attacks.

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The last major change to dispatch systems in Florida came in 2008, after a North Port woman was kidnapped and killed. The father of Denise Amber Lee almost immediately notified police agencies to be on the lookout for her.

Several people called 911 in the hours following her abduction, including Lee herself, who called from the back of the car she was placed in. But dispatchers couldn’t connect the dots and transferred calls to different jurisdictions.

Lee’s body was found two days later.

Her husband and father campaigned for a certification system for dispatchers that became law nine years ago.

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