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HSEMD recognizes public safety telecommunicators


DES MOINES - The Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (HSEMD) is recognizing April 14-20, 2019, as National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. 


Blake DeRouchey, manager of Iowa's 911 program, explained that telecommunications professionals are the backbone of the 911 system and critical to ensuring the safety of our communities and our citizens. 


"Without these telecommunications personnel, 911 wouldn't function as we know it today," said DeRouchey.  "They are the calm voice on the line during a caller's worst day. They are able to expertly dispatch first responders to needed locations, while sometimes listening to multiple calls and radio traffic simultaneously.  They truly are unsung heroes." 


HSEMD, along with the Iowa 911 Communications Council, are also recognizing April as 911 Education Month to demonstrate to all Iowans the importance of 911 and the role citizens play in ensuring effective emergency response.


“When calling 911, remember, stay calm, and be aware of your location so you can help 911 dispatchers locate you during an emergency,” said DeRouchey.  


HSEMD is undertaking a number of projects to help modernize the state's 911 system.  Through the previous work of establishing an IP-based network, additional technological advances become possible.  These include initiatives to share call handling equipment so that each answering point no longer has to manage and maintain their own system.  Another initiative is the modernization of the land line 911 network.   



Because of this modernized technology, Iowans now have the capability to text 911 during emergency situations. Currently, 97 of Iowa’s 99 counties have call centers capable of receiving text messages.


Text-to-911 allows cell phone users to send a text message to 911 in an emergency. Not all cell phone carriers have or will be providing this capability to its customers. Currently, six cell phone carriers in Iowa have committed to making text-to-911 available to customers: Verizon, AT&T, i-Wireless, Sprint, U.S. Cellular, and T-Mobile.


Text-to-911 was developed primarily for citizens who are hard of hearing, deaf, or speech impaired. Texting can be used in situations in which a voice call to 911 would endanger the caller, such as during a home invasion or domestic situation. Sending a text to 911 can also be helpful in situations in which a medical condition makes it impossible for the caller to speak. Iowa’s IP-based 911 network will eventually allow citizens to contact 911 using video and picture messaging.


“Even with the technology in place to allow you to text 911, it is still best to call if at all possible if you need help,” DeRouchey stressed.


Materials and other resources on 911 are available on the Ready Iowa website at under the “Be Prepared” tab, and also on the NENA website at under the “Education” tab. 


The Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management leads, coordinates and supports homeland security and emergency management functions in order to establish sustainable communities and ensure economic opportunities for Iowa and its citizens.