Attorney General's Opinion
Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal
May 21, 2007
The Honorable John Danaher
Commissioner of Public Safety
111 Country Club Road
Middletown, CT 06457
Dear Commissioner Danaher:
Your Department has asked for our opinion whether the state's Enhanced 9-1-1 database may be used by the state and its municipalities as part of a system to place or deliver telephone calls notifying residents of an emergency -- a so-called reverse 9-1-1 system. Such a notification system would consist of computer hardware, telephone lines, computer software and the data in the Enhanced 9-1-1 system. That data consists of the names, addresses and telephone numbers, both listed and unlisted, of all telephone subscribers in Connecticut.
Our opinion is that legislative authorization is required to implement a reverse 9-1-1 system and I urge you to seek it during the current session.1 I would join you in strongly supporting such legislation as serving an important and urgent public interest.
The current Enhanced 9-1-1 system allows the state and its municipalities to access the Enhanced 9-1-1 database to respond to emergency calls for assistance. The database, produced by telephone service providers for the Office of State-wide Emergency Telecommunications, allows automatic name, number and location identification of individuals who make calls to the 9-1-1 system. A reverse 9-1-1 system would allow the state and its municipalities to automatically telephone all residents listed in the Enhanced 9-1-1 database with a pre-recorded message during an emergency.
Connecticut's emergency telecommunications system is governed by Connecticut General Statutes §§28 -24 through 28-30a. Section 28-28a describes the use the legislature has authorized for the Enhanced 9-1-1 database. That statute provides:
A telephone company shall forward to any public safety answering point or other answering point equipped for enhanced 9-1-1 service the telephone number and street address of any telephone used to place a 9-1-1 call. Subscriber information provided in accordance with this section shall be used only for the purpose of responding to emergency calls or for the investigation of false or intentionally misleading reports of incidents requiring emergency service.
Additionally, the Enhanced 9-1-1 system operates through “public safety answering points.” A public safety answering point “means a facility, operated on a twenty-four hour basis, assigned the responsibility of receiving 9-1-1 calls” and “is the first point of reception by a public safety agency of a 9-1-1 call.” (Emphasis added). Conn. Gen. Stat. § 28-25(10).
According to the plain language of the statute, therefore, the Enhanced 9-1-1 system and database were established by the legislature for the purpose of “receiving” calls at “answering points" for “responding to emergency calls." There is no stated statutory authority for use of the Enhanced 9-1-1 system or database to place or deliver telephone calls to residents in an emergency or for any other purpose, nor is there anything in the legislative history that would support such a use. Legislative authorization, therefore, is needed to adopt a state and municipal reverse 9-1-1 system using the database provided by telephone service providers for the Enhanced 9-1-1 system and I urge you to seek it during the current session.
You should also be aware that obtaining information on telephone subscribers for the Enhanced 9-1-1 database implicates several federal laws. Title II of the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, entitled "Stored Wire and Electronic Communications and Transactional Records Access," 18 U.S.C. 2701-2710, restricts governmental access to telephone customer information except in specific enumerated circumstances, including specific emergency situations (18 U.S.C. 2702(c). The Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999 gives governmental entities access to listed and unlisted telephone subscriber information to "providers of emergency services, and providers of support services" for the purpose of responding to requests for emergency services." 47 U.S.C. 222(g). According to the Act, "emergency services" means 9-1-1 services as well as "emergency notification services"( 47 U.S.C. 222(h)(5), which are defined as "services that notify the public of an emergency." 47 U.S.C. 222(h)(6). Therefore, under federal law, it appears that telephone subscriber information obtained for 9-1-1 emergency services may be used for reverse 9-1-1 services to notify the public of an emergency.
If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Very truly yours,
1 We have also been informed that some municipalities have suggested using the Enhanced 9-1-1 database for sending non-emergency messages through a reverse 9-1-1 system. There is no statutory authority for using the Enhanced 9-1-1 database for non-emergency situations.
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