Don't Dial 911 In Missouri

Dialing 911 in Missouri is like a game of Russian Roulette. The state’s public safety director recently warned that most Missouri counties can’t track a caller’s location and that 16% of counties can’t access 911 from any landline. The solution? Higher cellphone taxes:

Missouri is the only state without a statewide fee or tax for wireless 911 service. Voters have twice rejected ballot measures to raise taxes for 911 service, most recently in 2002.

Public Safety Director Mark James told lawmakers Monday that service needs to improve, and recommended a 75-cent monthly fee per cell phone number.

That fee would generate about $33.8 million a year, nearly as much as what’s collected now through the fee on landline numbers, state emergency officials said.

“Ours is one of the worst in the nation, and actions must be taken to correct this life-threatening problem,” James said. “I pray that we don’t have to have a catastrophe occur before we have the courage to fix this situation.”

$0.75 isn’t much for 911 service. Hell, we would pay $0.75 for 311 service.

Cell phone fee sought for 911 service [AP]
(Photo: Wellzee)


Edit Your Comment

  1. forever_knight says:

    uh, if you can’t do the job with the existing fees collected by landlines, why should we think that throwing even more money at the problem will do anything? the loss of landline 911 taxes is a rather new problem, so you can’t blame that for the shitty system that’s in place now.

    the solution is not to raise taxes (yet–maybe eventually need implement a reasonable 911 tax on cell phones), but to have an organized effort to consolidate and update equipment.

  2. 16% of counties can’t access 911 from any landline.

    Why isn’t $33.8 million a year enough to cover the landlines?

    About three-fourths of Missouri’s 171 emergency call centers also have outdated equipment and need technology improvements, such as the ability to share data with each other in a major disaster, James said.

    How on Earth did it get that bad before it became news?!?!

  3. Havok154 says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation:
    Misappropriated funds?

  4. boandmichele says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation: we’ve spend almost a third of that this year alone on upgrades to our system here. new radio systems, expansion and computers, etc. i say that roughly 68 million will still leave them desperately underfunded.

    without proper communication, you’ll have to rely on amateur ham radio operators to save your life. it costs a lot to do what we do , click on ‘equipment’ at the top

  5. CRSpartan01 says:

    To anyone who lives in Missouri, this shouldn’t be a surprise… just try dialing 911 in one of the rural areas and see how closely it resembles an Abott and Costello skit. I’m just lucky I live in one of the more urban areas and don’t have to worry about these things as often.

    Missouri is fantastic at responsibly appropriating and using funds. *cough* MODOT *cough*.

    And yes, that was sarcasm.

  6. Buran says:

    Here’s my experience with 911 in Missouri. I live near St. Louis in one of the suburbs.

    I had to call 911 a few summers ago due to a nasty accidental cut from broken glass that bled profusely and needed immediate treatment and stitches. I only have a cell phone. I was connected to, I believe, St. Louis city 911 center but I knew that I might not be talking to a local rep. So I asked for my local call center and was immediately transferred and the local rep was on the line in less than two seconds.

    If you are aware of the shortages of the system and don’t panic and tell the operator which center is your local one, they WILL transfer you. I didn’t even get the thank you out before it was done (which is as it should be in an emergency!)

    Unfortunately, it is easy to panic if you don’t know what to do, say, at the sight of lots of bleeding (put something on it and clamp down hard).

    To this day the only reminder of the incident is a very faint scar. No pain whatsoever and no lost movement ability.

  7. Buran says:

    @Havok154: This is Missouri. The state that’s behind in so many things I’ve lost count. I grew up here, so I’m attached to it in a sentimental way, but at the same time I wouldn’t mind being in a more progressive or advanced state.

    We are beginning a huge highway reconstruction project here in St. Louis, replacing many over or underpasses on I-64. How bad are the outgoing bridges? Try exposed rebar and crumbling concrete…

    Should have been fixed a long time ago.

  8. endless says:


    I live 3 blocks from MO in kansas.

    The Difference between the roads is often times quite striking. (though it has gotten better)

    When i saw the news about the bridge collapse, i fairly quickly thought of any number of Missouri bridges that I dont trust.

  9. Katrine says:

    A primary problem is that it is up to each city/district/county to fund and implement their 911 system. For the less populated, poorer counties (like my home) the only way 911 will be implemented is with massive infusions of cash from the state, enough to pay for both the commissioners’ bribes and to install the system (standardizing addresses, telecom equipment, dispatcher salaries, etc).

  10. teh says:

    I’m sure it’s better than California was a few years ago. I called 911 on a cell phone and was asked to leave a message stating my emergency.

  11. nctrnlboy says:

    I live in missouri…. do you know why we dont vote for approval of taxes on this & that? Because they are always used on something else.

    Just watch….. the funds from 75 cents on cellphones…. will end up being used for something else.

  12. markwm says:


    Ding ding ding! We have a winner! This state loves to misappropriate funds, then put ballots before the public that basically say, “OK, even though the law says the money is supposed to go for X, we’ve been using it for Y, but now it really has to go for X, if this ballot measure passes.” Then they pat themselves on the back for following the law if the ballot measure passes.

  13. markwm says:

    Heh, posted my last comment before reading all the other repsonses. Looks like I’m not the only Show-Me stater disgusted with our states fiscal responsibility, especially in areas like MODOT.

  14. Buran says:

    @markwm: I remember that. I voted for the ballot measure that forced gas taxes, etc. to actually be used to maintain roads.

  15. koath says:

    I live in MO also and at my last job I would have to call 911 a few times a summer. I called from a public phone and I’d always have to state where I was at the time. I recall an ambulance once going to the wrong park because of their names being similar. Everyone ended up being okay in the end.

    I now live in another area in MO and I remember getting a local newsletter saying how the town doesn’t have the ability to tell where you are if you call 911 on a cell phone.

  16. markwm says:

    Yup. That left a bad taste in my mouth. A lot of people were saying things like, “This is great! There will finally be some accountability!” Ummm… There should already be some accountability, considering the laws on the books and statutes governing revenue dictate where the money should be going. They’re simply not doing that. How can another law saying “We mean it this time, seriously.” make it any different?
    But now we’re getting 1/10 of a mile markers on every major highway and signs advertising “Coming soon, roadwork!”, so I guess MODOT is being fiscally responsible now.
    And I’m not even going to get started on the waste of money that is changing the license plates again…