It will cost about $180,000 over a two-year period to upgrade the emergency center

HOPEWELL — City Council decided Tuesday night to proceed with a plan to upgrade the city's 911 system to include text messages for help.

Council's unanimous vote means that the city will be able to apply for more than $180,000 in funding as part of the Virginia Information Technology Agency's Next Generation 911 Mitigation Proposal program. VITA is pushing for all emergency response systems to be text message-enabled by 2023, and estimated that it would cost the city that much to upgrade its 911 system over a 24-month period.

Kim Parson, administrative service manager for the Hopewell Police Department, said the system has been in development nationwide for more than a decade now. Parson said the system would prove to be very useful for individuals who suffer from speech or hearing impairment or are in a situation such as domestic violence where speaking may endanger them. This improved 9-1-1 system also creates better situational awareness for police who could effectively process data from pictures and video to better understand an emergency as well as the location. 

In order to move forward, Parson said Hopewell’s 911 center needs to install an infrastructure which may require significant funding. And because 911 is a local service, it will be up to each locality to decide how NG911 will be implemented.1.

Hopewell has the option to apply for funding through the 911 Service Board where money is available for all Virginia localities to access grants to aid in upgrading the services. After installation, Hopewell would only be responsible for paying AT&T a little more than $5,000 a month, which is an increase from $1,700 currently paid to Verizon.

After confirming Hopewell’s Information Technology department involvement in the process, Mayor Jasmine Gore appeared very pleased with the presentation.

“I think it’s great,” Gore said right before council decided to approve the proposal.

Brandon Carwile is a staff writer for the Hopewell Herald and Prince George Post, a sister publication of The Progress-Index.