Recent press coverage of the inadequacies of the 911 system aroused my interest. As chairman of the Coventry Fire District, and a nurse practitioner, I have a personal stake in protecting my taxpayers and patients. I contacted state Representative Robert Lancia, the source of the initial press coverage, and he explained the call holding problem and the divergence of over $11 million in funding to the RI General Fund.

The 911 system is short-staffed due to an inadequate budget. I learned that the fee we all pay in our telephone bill (a hidden tax) raises $17 million annually yet the 911 system has a budget of less than $6 million annually. I felt like I, and the rest of the citizen taxpayers in the state, have been mugged.

My initial thoughts were on where is the money going. Are the 89 people who make over $100,000 annually hired by Gov. Gina Raimondo the beneficiary of my public safety money?

The governor has spent over $11 million on the infamous 89 since she took office. Is the governor’s progressive (socialist) agenda benefiting? Is this her way of “balancing” the budget without cutting services? Most importantly, does she care about public safety?

This problem seemed like just the tip of the iceberg, so I did a deep dive into the problem. I discovered that we have an antiquated and inadequate 911 system.

Thirty years ago, it was state of the art. Virtually all 911 calls came in from a landline and the system was able to immediately, precisely identify the caller’s location. Today, more than 70 percent of all calls come via a mobile phone. The system does not have the capability to use GPS to identify location, but must rely on the caller to give an address.

Significant delays occur when the caller does not speak English, or is panicked and upset. Then the call is transferred to the locality indicated by the caller, where they ask the same questions all over again. Delays can easily multiply from seconds to minutes and more. A heart attack victim does not have minutes, he or she will die if any delay takes place. Are you listening Gov. Raimondo?

Our system can be updated to a state -of-the-art system with the fees that are currently collected in our phone bill. The 911 call center could immediately identify the mobile phone caller’s location with GPS, an immediate text message or email can be sent to the appropriate responding locality, and another electronic message could be sent to the first responder. This system would dispatch the first responder in seconds and also eliminate the radio messages, which can be listened to by anyone, and is a violation of Federal HIPPA Law. This system would be seamless, fast, and safe. The citizens of RI deserve no less, since we are already paying for it.

In closing, I would like to paraphrase Governor Raimondo’s propaganda ministry: Hey Gov., when are you going to stop stealing from me and start protecting my family? Put the money back in the 911 system and order an immediate state of the art upgrade to the system. I’m willing to serve on any committee to investigate the best way to upgrade our 911 system to state of the art technology. Give me a call Gov., I can be reached at the Coventry Fire District.

Frank Palin


The author is the board chairman of the Coventry Fire District.

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