There are 49 states in the U.S. that impose some sort of surcharge on their monthly cell phone bills to help offset the costs of enhanced 911 systems.
Missouri is the only state that doesn't.
16 counties in the Show Me State still don't have E-911.
"It should be a given that any 911 system anywhere in the country should have that capability," said Mike Hall who is the Marion County Missouri 911 Center executive director.
Several years ago, Lewis County Missouri upgraded its 911 center. That meant, county wide addressing and a 911 system that was enhanced. When a call comes in, all of a caller's pertinent information and their location showed up on a computer screen even before a dispatcher picks up the call. It's something that Sheriff David Parish says was badly needed.
"I can't tell you how many calls we've been too for elderly persons who have dialed 911 and not been able to speak on the phone. With enhanced service we're able to identify the address and got to the address and made contact with that person and that even includes motorists on the highway. It's a night and day difference and I do believe has saved lives," said Parish.
But saving lives costs money.
One idea to fund Enhanced 911 is a cell phone surcharge.
$.50 cents a month would generate almost 29 million dollars a year.
That would be enough money to help counties upgrade to enhanced 911.
But, no politician wants to take the lead on imposing the surcharge.
"The reassurance that we have when a call comes in that we're going to find the caller is indescribable. For a little over two years now we've had the capability of handling wireless calls and locating then and the thought of going back in time to where we literally had no idea where the caller was at, even if they were in out own county is just something I don't too, I can't imagine how we operated for so long in that situation," said hall.
We also spoke to a 911 director who's been in the dispatching field for over decade. He said 10 years ago, it was about 70% of the calls to a 911 center came from a land line like your phone in your home, while about 30% of the calls came from cell phones.
But now 70% of the calls come from cell phones and about 30% of the calls come from land lines.
When you're dialing 911, it should start the process of sending emergency responders to your location.
But what if you can't tell them where you are? Enhanced 911 systems do that for you,
Unlike most of the state, there are four counties in Northeast Missouri that still don't have E-911 capabilities.
Emergency dispatchers answer basic 911 calls, but with enhanced 911 calls, all of your pertinent information and even your location is displayed on a screen for the dispatcher to see. There are still 16 counties in the State of Missouri, that don't have that option. Clark County is one of them.
Cinda James, executive director of the Clark County Ambulance Service, said if there was E-911 in Clark County it would make a difference.
"Because we can install a computer screen in out units that that address can immediately pop up and places a marker, so that they can see who to drive there day or night and we know we're getting to the right address, so we don't have to rely on verbal directions," she said.
So if you call for an emergency in Clark, Scotland, Schuyler or Knox counties, you have to be able to give an exact location for either police, fire or ambulance services. But you better hope the emergency personnel know where you live or know the address where you're calling from.
"Right now we deal with going a lot with directions and trying to find addresses through word of mouth and memory and just being experienced with the area," Clark County Sheriff Paul Gaudette said. "An E-911 system is very useful in that is has signs on all county roads, which we don't have. I've talked to the county commissioners about that and its too costly to initiate and maintain that at the local level."
There has been talk of trying to place a 50-cent surcharge on monthly cell phones bills, but currently that doesn't seem to be at the top of the priority list for legislators. So for now, when you dial 911, officials say it's key to provide as much information as you can to dispatchers.
Coming up in part two of this special report, we will talk to the director of one 911 center in Northeast Missouri to hear about what it would cost to start up an enhanced 911 system.
We will also take a look at the legislative options to install E-911 in Northeast Missouri.