BEAUMONT - The South East Texas Regional Planning Commission wants to make sure emergency calls will always get answered. They created a new back-up system that can function in natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes.
The commission is building 14 microwave towers in the Golden Triangle that will serve as a backup network during emergency calls.
"It's basically a data circuit in the air that isn't vulnerable to being cut by construction crews," said 9-1-1 Emergency Network Director Pete De La Cruz.
Currently the 9-1-1 network uses fiber optic cables located in the ground for emergency calls but they can get damaged easily. In April, the Hardin County Sheriff's office experienced this problem when their cable was accidentally cut.
"We didn't lose calls and it drove home the fact that fiber cable is a wonderful technology but it is vulnerable to cuts," said De La Cruz.
The project will cost 3.5 million dollars and is funded by a 50 cent fee on your phone bill. Officials said this extra cost will give the cities a greater sense of security during an emergency.
"In our line of work it's needed to have a backup and triple back up to have the insurance that someone is still coming," said Beaumont Fire Public Relations officer Jimmy Blanchard.
These towers will also be able to survive severe weather and will keep emergency responders updated with technology.
"Individuals with smart phones may want to send a photo or video along,” said De La Cruz. “The microwave technology has the capacity to handle that additional data.”
De La Cruz said his goal is to finish the project by March 2017.
(© 2016 KBMT)