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911 Connects

Q&A with Evelyn Bailey

Published Mar 2020

NASNA Executive Director and long-time Vermont 911 administrator Evelyn Bailey reflects on her career and the changing landscape of 911

For those who may not be familiar with NASNA, can you give us some detail about its overall mission?

The National Association of State 911 Administrators, NASNA, is comprised of individuals who manage the state 911 programs. It got its start back in 1980s as an informal group, where people would get together at conferences to talk about state 911 issues. Then in the 1990s, as state 911 issues became more prevalent, the official organization was born. It serves two functions:

  • Primarily, providing a forum for state leaders to collaborate with each other, share information and to solve problems

  • Secondarily, providing a resource for federal government entities and national associations that look to state 911 officials regarding their 911 concerns.

In various capacities, I worked with NASNA and its members for more than 26 years. In the early 1990s, I became the first 911 state administrator for Vermont. Over the course of my years with the state, I served in every position on the organization’s executive board.

What first got you interested in working with NASNA?

The Vermont interim statewide 911 board encountered NASNA while researching how other states were structuring 911 at the state level. Several NASNA members helped that interim board by sharing their experiences and wisdom. When I was tasked with helping to pass statewide E911 legislation, I tapped NASNA members to gain more insight into what they were doing. NASNA was – and continues to be – a tremendous resource. Knowing more about other programs helped us craft the legislation that created the Vermont 911 board.

Through all the years that I’ve been in and around the organization, individual state administrators have come and gone, but the spirit of the organization hasn’t changed. It is still made up of people that are as intelligent, hardworking, passionate and engaged as they were 26+ years ago.

Can you describe the relationship that NASNA has with the National 911 Program?

The relationship goes back about 19 years as E911 was reaching a crisis point. More people were using cellular phones which resulted in some big obstacles for 911. In 2001, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the DOT reached out to NASNA for help in developing the Wireless E911 Priority Action Plan. In 2006, NASNA helped to develop a model state 911 plan and to identify 911 data elements that could be useful to the states and would be feasible to collect. By 2013, the National 911 Program had engaged with NASNA to help the organization better fulfill its goal to further state 911 programs, which is when I was brought on board as NASNA’s first Executive Director.

Are there any initiatives underway that communities might be familiar with, even if they don’t know much about NASNA?

NASNA supports state level 911 programs by providing information to members so they can chart their state’s path forward. NASNA’s approach is more subtle in that the general public sees the result of that work but wouldn’t likely know the organization by name.

We provide information and support for NG911 deployments, a forum to exchange information and visibility for state 911 programs. We’ve created policy recommendations on several 911 topics. NASNA provides a knowledge base to its members and to federal government, news media and others who are looking for national perspectives on state 911 issues.

Are there any other initiatives that you are particularly proud of as an individual or organization that helped your community?

As an individual, I am honored and proud to have led the team that built and operated Vermont’s statewide E911 system. Many of my employees still work for the program and have steered it forward into NG911. So many lives and properties have been saved, including the life of my niece just a few weeks ago.

As NASNA’s executive director, I don’t think there is one specific initiative because really, we’ve provided state-level input and perspective on every initiative that involves 911. Issues such as multi-line telephone systems, wireless indoor call location, emergency alerting system, wireless alerting system, and text-to-911, to name just a few. Anything that involves 911, NASNA has provided insight. All of it has helped advance 911.

Now that you are living in the early days of your retirement, what are you enjoying? Do you have any interesting hobbies that you are looking forward to devoting more time to?

I am most enjoying the opportunity to slow down a bit. I love to bike, hike and cross-country ski. Plus, I’m a serious power lifter, so I’m looking forward to spending more time at the gym. My husband is already retired, and we love to travel, so I’m looking forward to spending more time with him and with our family. I grow a big garden every year because I love any reason to get my hands in the dirt. I love to grow my own medicinal and culinary herbs. If there’s something I can grow and process myself, I’d just as soon do that than to buy it. I find it very satisfying.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add that you’d like people to know?

It has been a great pleasure to work with the National 911 Program through its cooperative agreement with NASNA and to help develop NASNA into a highly respected and sought-after national organization. It’s been gratifying to work with folks who can make things happen from a public policy perspective and to know that this work makes a difference in ordinary people’s lives. Furthermore, it’s a great organization and I appreciate the potential the National 911 Program saw in NASNA when it proposed a cooperative agreement that would enable the association to hire an Executive Director. Being able to work with the NASNA board and members and with Laurie Flaherty at the National 911 Program has been special.

This wasn’t necessarily the career I had planned for myself (my degree is in archaeology and history). But it has been deeply satisfying to work with the wonderful people in 911 at the local, state and national levels, as well as in the private sector. Getting to know them has been incredibly enriching.

At the end of the day it’s all about the people and the connections you make with them. It’s about using one’s life to make a difference. It has been work worth doing.

Note: Evelyn Baily received the NG911 Institute’s “Heart of 911” award. This award, “in honor of the Institute’s late Deputy Director Carla Anderson, is presented to someone who best exemplifies not only the spirit Carla embodied in how she advanced 911 and telecommunicator interests, but also someone who represents the heart that beats in all of us.” Congratulations Evelyn – well deserved!