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The family of a missing Hot Springs Village (Ark.) police dispatcher say they believe a body found on New Year’s Eve is that of Dawna Natzke, 46, but police are waiting for crime lab tests before making a formal announcement. Natzke left a Christmas party on Dec. 21st with her boyfriend and then went home. The boyfriend, 46 year-old Kevin Duck, has told police he went to sleep while Natzke was still up. When he awoke the next morning, Natzke was gone, he said. She was reported missing the next day when she did not appear for work at the police department. Police have not named anyone a suspect or person-of-interest in the case. Natzke’s car was found earlier, on Christmas Eve day in the Oauchita National Forest, burned and charred. No sign of Natzke was found at the fire scene. Then volunteer searchers located a body last Saturday about 5½ miles from the location of the car. Police say foul play is suspected in the death of that person, but won’t confirm the identity of the victim until state crime lab tests are completed. Update: This afternoon Natzke’s sister Vicky Hegyi confirmed that police had visited the family, and told them the body has been positively identified as Dawna Natzke. One of Natzke’s friends told the Associated Press that a text message she received from Natzke’s phone seems suspicious.

Police have released a haunting 42-second logging tape of a 911 call, with whispers from a house where five Texas family members were found shot to death, and a six person apparently committed suicide. Investigators for the Grapevine Police Department said the dispatcher was unable to hear the man’s words, but promptly dispatched officers to investigate the hang-up call. When patrol units arrived, they noticed several bloody bodies through a window, broke in and discovered the murder scene. Police say the suspect, Azizolah Yazdanpanah, 56, was the estranged husband of one of the female victims. He arrived at a family Christmas gathering dressed as Santa Claus, and was armed with two semi-auto pistols. Police officials say the police response was not delayed by the dispatcher’s inability to hear the suspect saying in a very low voice, “Help me. Help me.” At another point on the tape, a voice can be heard whispering, “I’m shooting, I’m shooting.” Police say the whispers were only audible while carefully listening to an enhanced version of the logging tape played at a higher volume. Listen to the 911 call tape here to determine what you can hear.

Dispatchers at the Albuquerque (NM) Police Department answered a 911 call reporting the abuse of two young girls, and have since taken up a collection to make sure the children have clothes, toys and other things they need to recover.

Dispatchers Help Save Baby

Cedar Rapids (Iowa) dispatchers Kelliann Dykstra and Andrew Huff helped save the life of an 18 month-old baby who wasn’t breathing by giving the mother medical instructions. Listen to the 911 call here.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has named Henning Schulzrinne as the agency’s chief technology officer, responsible for guiding the commission through engineering and other technical issues. Schulzrinne is a professor at Columbia University (NY) and has been an FCC Engineering Fellow since 2010. Beyond his general expertise in electrical engineering, he specializes in voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) issues, and over the past 10 years has researched its use for a Next Generation 911 (NG911) network. In particular, he has worked on the issue of including location information into VoIP data streams to allow ALI data to be streamed along with 911 voice, and co-authored a recent cost study of NG911. He has also consulted with planning teams for a public safety wireless network. FCC chair Julius Genachowski said in a press release, “With the appointment of Henning—a world-class technologist—we extend our commitment to technology excellence at the FCC and to strong engagement with outside technology experts.” Schulzrinne has a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, worked at AT&T Bell Laboratories and is a former member of the Internet Architecture Board, where he helped develop key protocols for VoIP.

A Concord (NH) man is alive and recovering after a heart attack, thanks to a team of citizens and public safety personnel who worked quickly and efficiently to perform CPR on him and get him hospital care. Jim Riley, 51, collapsed while on a roofing job, and co-worker Lynn Shull dialed 911 for help. Dispatcher Joyce Jastrem answered the call and gave Shull CPR instructions. Shortly after, passersby Brett Kimball and Dave Ellwell stopped and took over the CPR, and within minutes the Alton Fire Department arrived to defibrillate Riley and transport him to the hospital. Riley had suffered a 100 percent artery blockage, but fully recovered. On Dec. 1st the state’s Bureau of Emergency  Communications held a reunion for all the participants. Read a news account here, and the press release Bureau of Emergency Communications issued after the break. [click to continue…]

In the last-minute push to adopt legislation that would extend payroll tax savings for Americans, Congress has removed provisions that would have affected spectrum intended to create a nationwide wireless network. On Saturday the Senate passed a bill to extend a so-called “tax holiday” for 16 million Americans, but only after it was stripped of two sections pertaining to spectrum management. The first section removed was related to TV broadcast spectrum, and the other section would have assigned certain spectrum to public safety for a wireless network. The omission was a disappointing blow to public safety groups, which have lobbied Congress for action since a failed spectrum auction in 2008. However, this morning, the House voted voted down the Senate version of the tax holiday bill, and sent the bill to committee for reconciliation, a process that might result in a final bill within two weeks. It’s not clear if the spectrum provisions would be reinserted into the bill during committee consideration.

The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that pre-paid cellular phone subscribers are subject to the state’s monthly 911 surcharge, upholding a lower court decision that carrier T-Mobile owes the state $1.9 million in back fees. Previously, T-Mobile was paying the state a fee that it computed from the average monthly use of pre-paid phones, not the number of phone lines. Pre-paid phone users purchase talk-time minutes in advance, and don’t receive a monthly bill like pre-paid customers. In its decision, the court said the legislature clearly intended all cellular phone subscribers to pay the 70¢ per-month surcharge, since pre-paid users have access to the same 911 services as post-paid subscribers. T-Mobile has the technical ability to bill its pre-paid subscribers for the fee, the court noted, since they already can bill them for 411 calls and other services. Download (pdf) the Supreme Courts decision for more details.

In a show of openness about their operations during several confrontations with Occupy demonstrators, the Oakland (Calif.) police department has posted on-line a large collection of radio logging tapes and computer-aided dispatch (CAD) print-outs documenting dispatch operations. The department also posted several video clips taken by police videographers when police evicted the demonstrators from a downtown park during October and November, along with police planning and mutual aid documents. Examined together, the tapes and CAD documents provide a peek into the handling of a large-scale operation by dispatchers, which might include scores or hundreds of officers from outside agencies, the use of tactical radio channels and quickly changing events. On the tapes of the 800 MHz trunked radio system, traffic is evenly paced and deliberate, as the voices are mostly commanders, supervisors and specialized units, not individual officers. The CAD reports mostly document the radio traffic, but also a few updates from other sources, including plainclothes officers reporting via cellular phones. Surf this Web page for links to the collection of radio logging tapes and CAD print-outs.

As the year-end holidays approach and the nation slows down to celebrate, public safety groups remain in high gear, warning of Congressional legislation affecting spectrum allocations. Today the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) asked its members to write members of Congress to express opposition to provisions of H.R. 3630, a bill passed by the house yesterday that includes a section for public safety to give back a previous allocation of spectrum in the 700 MHz band used for in-field data transmission. The group also expressed its support for the provisions in that same bill that allocate spectrum for a nationwide, public safety wireless network, which has long been sought by public safety agencies. The previous day the Public Safety Alliance (PSA) issued a press release with similar sentiments, saying the bill “takes two steps forward,” but then “takes three steps back” with its two spectrum provisions. Read the groups’ statements after the break. [click to continue…]

A House of Representatives sub-committee has approved an amendment to provide matching grants to local agencies for Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG911) systems, and upgrades to Phase II 911 equipment. The Next Generation 9-1-1 Advancement Act (H.R. 2629) would authorize up to $250 million in funding through 2017. It was introduced last July by Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.). The bill would also reauthorized funding for a federal NG911 coordination office, limit state-collected 911 surcharges to 911 projects, and require studies on multi-line telephone systems, liability protection for 911 agencies, long-term 911 system funding, and establishing a “do not call” registry for public safety answering points (PSAP). The bill was approved by the House sub-committee on Communications and Technology on an The National Emergency Number Association (NENA) praised passage of the bill out of committee, saying it was as important as other legislation now being considered to create a nationwide public safety wireless network. In a press release, NENA president Rick Galway said, “Alongside the other public safety measures included in both the majority and minority bills, now is clearly the right time for Congress to take up NG9-1-1 legislation.” He noted that NG911 would be particularly useful to those with hearing or speech disabilities. Download (pdf) a copy of the proposed amendment here. [click to continue…]

A Toronto (Ont.) newspaper who battled the city for access to fire department response time statistics has revealed that each step of handling an emergency incident exceeds recognized standards, leading to arrival times of eight minutes after a 911 call is placed. In a story on Tuesday, The Star newspaper said it takes 30 seconds on average to transfer a 911 to the fire department, while the standard is 15 seconds or less. Fire unit notification time averages 100 seconds, while the standard set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is 60 seconds. Turn-out time takes 185 seconds, compared to the standard of 80 seconds. Travel time is the only segment that closely approaches the standard—4½ minutes compared to four minutes for the standard. The newspaper requested the data gathered by an outside consultant just after it was published in 2009, and the city responded with a heavily-redacted document. The newspaper appealed the city’s claim of confidentiality, and eventually a provincial commission ordered the report released. Read more about the report here, and also a rebuttal to some of the newspaper’s conclusions here.

Officials in Delaware County (Okla.) acknowledge that a former 911 dispatch supervisor and dispatcher filed a federal sexual harassment lawsuits against the 911 agency back in 2009, but note that none of the participants still works for the county. Both lawsuits are still active in the U.S. District Court: Joey Lambert claims she was the subject of sexual harassment by former County E911 Trust Authority head Don Murphy, while Shelby Haggard states in her lawsuit that Murphy retaliated against when she took Lambert’s complaints to the Authority board. The county has denied the claims in both lawsuits, and none of the participants has been willing to speak with reporters. Lambert claims that Murphy asked her whether she had a boyfriend, grabbed and hugged her, and tried to kiss her. Murphy repeatedly telephoned Lambert, the lawsuit says, and eventually Lambert sought medical treatment, “for the anxiety and stress from sexual harassment.” Lambert reported Murphy’s activities to former sheriff Jay Blackfox, the district attorney and county commissioners, and later Murphy was placed on leave during an investigation. However, Haggard says weeks later Murphy demoted her, changed her duties, and docked her for unworked time, all in retaliation for her complaints. Read more about the lawsuits here, and download (pdf) the federal lawsuits and the county’s response here. Update: In April 2013 the women settled their lawsuits for $31,000 and $86,500 respectively.

The years-long legislative process to assign wireless spectrum to public safety for a nationwide network may be nearing a phase that feels like conclusion. U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) has introduced a discussion draft of legislation that would make the 20 MHz spectrum assignment, fund up to $10 billion to create the wireless network, create thousands of jobs and reduce the federal deficit by $15 billion. The Jumpstarting Opportunity with Broadband Spectrum (JOBS) Act of 2011 legislation is the latest of several attempts to gain control of the spectrum, which Congress originally intended to be auctioned to the highest bidder in 2008. However, when no bids were received that met the minimum price, the spectrum has been in limbo every since. Public safety officials had hoped that the recent “super committee” budget negotiations would include spectrum solutions, but the committee announced last week that it had failed to reach agreement on any budget matters. Yesterday, in a press release announcing the legislative draft intended to promote discussion of the issues, Walden said, “Congress has an obligation to give America’s wireless industry the tools it needs to do what it does best: innovate and create the kinds of jobs that will keep America’s economy competitive in the 21st century.” He acknowledged that, “No party, special interest, or lobby gets everything they want in this legislation.” But he reminded legislators of the important goals of jobs, public safety and deficit reduction. Typically, discussion drafts of legislation lead to a final proposed bill, which then follows the usual path through Congress. The process of adopting the bill could take many months. Download (pdf) the bill and other materials, and read public safety’s reaction after the break. [click to continue…]

Faced with higher costs and lower revenues, the Hamilton County (Tenn.) Emergency Communications District has filed a lawsuit against AT&T to protect its 911 revenue stream, alleging the company has knowingly underpaid state-required 911 fees. The amount of underpayments isn’t know, the district says in its federal lawsuit, because AT&T has filed inaccurate reports on the number of telephone lines that it operates, particularly for business customers. The district is asking for an injunction to compel AT&T to provide the telephone line information, unpaid 911 fees dating back to 2001, accumulated interest, punitive damages of $10,000 for each false AT&T statement, and court costs. Some of the district’s lawsuit hinges on new digital technology that allows several telephone calls to be carried on a single circuit. Previous analog technology allowed just a single telephone call for each circuit. For several years, the district claims, AT&T has been reporting only the number of circuits it carries, rather than the number of telephone lines, thereby vastly under-paying 911 fees. According to the lawsuit, AT&T has also under-bid competitors on business-related telephone systems and won contracts by collecting just $2 per line of the 911 surcharge, rather than the state-required $3 per line. That under-collection allows AT&T to “unlawfully increase its profits at the expense of revenue to support the critical emergency services provided by the District.” Read more about the lawsuit here, and download (pdf) the full lawsuit here.