NextGen 911 on the horizon

VIDEO: First responders want 911 to get upgrade that could get help there faster

Making 911 as "smart" as your cellphone.

That's the goal of first responders meeting Monday to learn more about Next Gen 911.

This new system is already online in parts of three counties, Kittitas, Snohomish and King counties.

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It's called RAADAR, Real time Agency Activity Display and Reporting.

What that means is from right here, NORCOM can see what police and fire are doing in those three counties.

Seattle's fire chief says they could have used a system like this when disaster struck on the Aurora Bridge.

It remains the worst mass transit disaster in Seattle history.

In 2015, a Ride the Ducks amphibious vehicle loaded with tourists lost its axle and plowed into a bus filled with North Seattle College international students.

Five people died, 70 were injured.

When the call went out, Seattle first responders needed help fast.

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"If the county was on board and a system like this during that period of time," said Seattle Fire Chief Harold Scoggins, "either our dispatch center or the other dispatch centers would have easily been able to see the available resources and start coordinating, moving a lot of resources forward."

That's because with RAADAR, fire and police agencies would know "in real time" where each other's crews are; could easily seek and send help.

First responders from across the country gathered at the University of Washington to spread the gospel of RAADAR, led by the King County sheriff.

"Above all else, it takes bold leadership to step out of our silos, break down traditional walls and barriers and begin a new era of collaboration, cooperation and communication," said Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht.

Central to that mission will be upgrading to what is being called "NextGen 911."

"With the ability to take on new features," said Adam Wasserman, Washington State 911 coordinator. "Text to 911, potential for people to send video or picture to 911. So it's really getting 911 to catch up to the 21st century."

Seattle Fire is on board.

But the Seattle police is not. According to those at the conference, that's because the state's largest city still hasn't signed the needed contracts.

That it likely won't happen for several more months.