New Jersey 9‑1‑1 Goes to Washington


By James Lockerbie and Timothy Cunningham

On February 16th 1968 in Haleyville, Alabama, the first 9‑1‑1 call was made. In the 55 years that succeeded that call, while much has changed about the world, little has changed in the world of 9‑1‑1. NENA National being the advocate for 9‑1‑1 in the United States and other three-digit emergency numbers around the world has been hosting the 9‑1‑1 Goes to Washington event for the past 17 plus years. The goal of this event is to bring together 9‑1‑1 professionals from across the nation to speak with our government leaders and address today’s most pressing 9‑1‑1 emergency communications issues. This year, as the only representatives from New Jersey, my associate Timothy Cunningham and I, James Lockerbie, traveled to our nation’s capitol and met with members of the 118th congress.

What does this event look like, and what happened while we were there? We arrived Sunday evening and gathered for the welcome reception. There we were excited to meet with 9‑1‑1 professionals from 40 of the 50 United States and the territory of Guam. Monday morning we arrived at the convention center early and participated in panel discussions with topic experts and industry representatives who helped prepare us for the meetings to come on the hill. The discussion covered the need for Next Generation 9‑1‑1 funding, which has been estimated at 15 billion dollars, and the reclassification of 9‑1‑1 professionals on a federal level. The two most important legislative concerns are referred to as the “NG 9‑1‑1 Act” and the “9‑1‑1 Saves Act”. Later Monday evening during the NG 911 Institute’s Honors Awards Dinner, I was pleased to introduce Tim to the co-author of the 9‑1‑1 Saves Act, California Congresswoman Norma J Torres. Congresswoman Torres, a former LAPD 9‑1‑1 Communications Officer, spoke with us prior to giving her keynote speech at the event. On Tuesday a good friend of mine, Alicia Burns, helped coordinate with staffers from Rep. Torres office a group photo on the east steps of the US Capitol Building. The National board members were pleased with this opportunity to obtain such a wonderful photo op. Later that afternoon Timothy Cunningham and I met with a staffer from the office of Dr. Jefferson Van Drew, our local congressional district representative. Wednesday was a day filled with meetings on the hill as we met with the offices of three house representatives and Senator Cory Booker. This included a meeting with freshman representative Robert Menendez, son of Senator Bob Menendez.

While most of the conference was planned out, part of being in DC is never knowing who you may have the opportunity to meet. An example of this would be my experience while I was checking out of my hotel room, I bumped into Sara Weston, the founder of the 9‑1‑1 Wonder Woman Inc. A non-profit organization tasked with elevating women in the 9‑1‑1 industry. We had the pleasure of attending an event inspired by her organization Tuesday night, NENA’s Women in 9‑1‑1 Alliance Reception. The highlight of the reception was the awarding of the Wendy Day Memorial Scholarship, which provides the opportunity for a female Telecommunicator to attend the 9‑1‑1 GTW Conference. We encourage the women of the NJ NENA chapter to inquire into and apply for this scholarship, as well as become part of these two amazing organizations. As Sara and I parted ways she provided me with one of her “911der Women” logo lapel pins. I was able to pass this pin along to Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman’s office of the 12th congressional district of NJ. Her staffer who accepted the pin mentioned that Rep Coleman would love to meet with local constituents who are members of that organization.

So why is it so important to share this experience with you? While we shared our concerns with each individual we met with, they in turn had a request for us to bring back to our NJ membership. Each Representative stressed the importance of hearing directly from their local constituents. You don’t have to wait until next year’s 9‑1‑1 GTW Conference to meet with these local representatives. They all have local offices where they are more than willing to set up meetings and even talked about going to visit their local 9‑1‑1 centers. We need more members to become involved and engaged with advocating for our profession. There is power in numbers. An example of this is the 17 members from Tennessee that attended, arranged a breakfast with their congressional delegation. Our hope is that we would see this kind of support from our NJ members so that we too can organize events like this to help bring awareness to our state delegates. It is important to come together as a group so that we can institute the change we need for our profession to be more successful.

Several NENA chapters have chosen to replicate this type of event at the state level, organizing trips to their State Capitols. The Chapters are following a similar format, preparing members with talking points and bringing them up-to-date on the issues of their individual states. They are then sent out to meet with State Representatives and State Senators, in an effort to improve our industry within their states. Tim and I would like to see a “NJ NENA Goes to Trenton” event where we can advocate on behalf of 9‑1‑1 professionals all over NJ, in order to improve the quality of our 9‑1‑1 system and create relationships with the men and women of the state assembly. While the last 55 years has been spent developing 9‑1‑1 we now need to focus our efforts on obtaining proper classification, funding, training, and technology to meet the ever-growing needs of our community. 9‑1‑1 professionals and the people that they serve deserve nothing less.



James Lockerbie
Egg Harbor Township Police Department

Timothy Cunningham
Stafford Township Police Department 
Lead Public Safety Telecommunicator

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