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Broadband Conference Planned

A group of wireless industry companies will co-host a Broadband Wireless Conference for Public Safety and Public Access in Riverside (S. Calif.) on Nov. 8th. The companies Radio IP Software, InfiNet Wireless, Lockheed Martin Information Technology, Public Safety Broadband and Wi-Fi Citywide will feature live demonstrations of an integrated 4.9 GHz public safety and 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi public access network that can handle graphics, video and other high-bandwidth applications. Find more information and a downloadable brochure here.

Tornado Generates 911 Calls

Vanderburgh County (Ind.) officials have released transcripts of 911 calls reporting damage and injuries after a tornado struck the region in October. Dispatcher Kelly Nurrenbern told a reporter that a call from a small girl still haunts her, with the girl reporting that her mother had been “squished” by debris. Adjacent Warrick County’s 911 system was knocked out, so Vanderburgh dispatchers began handling those calls, too. Read a story and watch video here.

U.S. Senator Turned Out?

Voters in Montana may have turned out three-term Sen. Conrad Burns (R), electing state senator Jon Tester by a 49% to 48% margin, or just 1,743 votes. As a member of the Senate’s Communications Subcommittee, Burns has been a key supporter of major public safety legislation over his 18 years of Senate service, including E911 funding, VoIP/E911 implementation and radio interoperability funding. Burns was also a founding member of the E9-1-1 Caucus, a working Congressional consensus-building forum to strengthen public safety communications infrastructures across the country. Other chairs include Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), who was re-elected on Tuesday, and Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and John Shimkus (R-IL). The results of the Montana and Virginia Senate races were still too close to call as of Wednesday morning. Democrats gained four seats in the Senate, and the results of the Montana and Virginia Senate races will determine which political party has a majority in the Senate.

Voters Turn Out House Rep

U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Penn.), an active and influential supporter of public safety, has been defeated in his bid for re-election after a 20-year Congressional career. Weldon was one of Representatives swept out of office, changing the political balance of power among Republicans and Democrats. Weldon sponsored several pieces of key legislation that focused on public safety communications, including the allocation of 24 MHz in the 700 MHz band. Weldon is a former volunteer firefighter and is the senior member of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation. He is vice chair of both the House Homeland Security committee and the Armed Services committee. Weldon was defeated by former Navy admiral Joe Sestak, who also served as director for defense policy in the Clinton administration. At 7 a.m. (EST) Wednesday the vote margin was 56% to 44%.

PR Firm Helps on 911

Shelby County (Tenn.) officials have taken their problem of 911 abuse seriously–they hired a public relations firm to survey citizens and come up with a way to educate them about the proper use of 911. The survey found that residents realized what serious situations qualified for 911, but had a “gray area” about less-serious incidents. About 40% of those surveyed said they’d dial 911 for drug selling or shoplifting, and 23% said they’d dial 911 for to report a no-injury car accident. Perhaps worst, 76% of citizens said they use 911 because they can’t think of alternative telephone numbers. The county has set up 511 for traffic and 211 for library services to take some load off of 911, and are considering other changes to help.

NENA on AT&T/BellSouth Merger

NENA has filed comments with the FCC on the proposed merger between AT&T and BellSouth Corp., focusing on public safety issues such as no B911 in 83 counties covered by the two companies, and no E911 in another 76 counties, Phase II accuracy, restoration priority service fees, and improvements to the VoIP implementation process. Download (pdf) the comments here.

Changes After Murder

Prince George’s County (Md.) officials say they have made some changes in the wake of a murder that highlighted dispatching issues. Vernon Herron, the county director of public safety, confirmed that two dispatchers and a supervior are on paid administrative leave while the investigation is completed. The victim dialed 911 to report his car was being taken by a tow truck, but the dispatcher believed it was being repossessed and told the man to call back within an hour to check on the car. The man followed the tow truck, and was shot and killed by someone in the truck. Herron said supervisors now must hold monthly meetings with dispatchers where a sampling of calls will be reviewed for compliance with procedures. “It’s a science that cannot be deviated from,” Herron told a reporter. He said 131 dispatchers handle about 4,000 telephone calls a day for police, fire and sheriff’s services. Read more about the aftermath here.

NENA on Next-Gen 911

After nearly six years of work, NENA announced it has formed a joint Technical and Operations working group to focus on the development of a next-generation 911 system and a PSAP transition plan. According to the group, the effort, “will provide a detailed roadmap of present and future activities toward the transition to a NG9-1-1 system and the subsequent operation of that system.” The project will work towards converting the nation’s separate, locally-operated 911 networks into an inter-networked, IP based NG9-1-1, “with greatly expanded capabilities for emergency call/message handling, multimedia emergency communications, and data acquisition, management and sharing.” In their press release, NENA also included a timeline of their efforts.

Dispatcher Suspended

DeWitt County (Ohio) officials have suspended dispatcher Mike Harris after an address mix-up in early October delayed the response to a medical emergency that ended with the victim’s death. However, Clinton police chief Mike Reidy said an internal investigation determined the delay was not a factor in the woman’s death. Harris attempted to confirm the town the caller was in, but the caller’s “Yes” response apparently referred to his street address. Reidy declined to detail the length of the suspension or other details of the discipline. Read more about how the incident occurred here.

Grants for New Tech

The federal National Institute of Justice (NIJ) is soliciting applications to research, develop, and evaluate emerging communication technology solutions for public safety agencies. More specifically, they are focusing on technologies such as multiband radio, including software-defined radio (SDR) and hardware radios; cognitive radio technologies; location technologies with real-time updates; non-terrestrial technologies such as satellite and other airborne solutions; alternative technologies for interconnection of repeater sites; multiband radio antennas; mobile hybrid technology for wireless broadband data; and VoIP telephony issues such as location information and monitoring. The NIJ takes applications from states and local governments, profit and non-profit organizations, institutions of higher education, and qualified individuals. Download (pdf) the full grant information here.

Dispatcher for City Council

Retired 911 dispatcher Jerry Cannon is campaigning for a position on the Morgantown (Ken.) City Council. The 50 year-old Cannon spent 27 years as a dispatcher, and was born and raised in Morgantown. He would like to help restore the city. “We need jobs desperately because we are lacking an avenue for a lot of upgrades in our community. The people here need work for their families to try to live a comfortable life, which we all deserve.” He’s running against a businessman, a former teacher and a car salesman.

Accused Dispatcher Resigns

The Bexar County (Tex.) Sheriff’s Department says that 911 supervisor Barbara Villarreal, 44, turned in her resignation last week after she was released from jail. The 14-year veteran, her boyfriend and a neighbor were arrested by federal officials in connection with a drug ring that allegedly took delivery of 800 pounds of marijuana. Villarreal was accused of participating in the ring, and of using her position to warn others of pending drug investigations.

Wild Ride With 911

“I’m in a high-speed chase I don’t want to be in,” said the voice when a Hutchinson County (Kan.) dispatcher answered a 911 call last September. Even as the chase continued at speeds up to 100 mph, Darrin Moran continued to talk to the unnamed dispatcher, explaining that he had just been picked up by his buddy, and that he was an innocent bystander. The chase continued through two counties, and dispatchers received reports of gunfire. When the truck finally skidded off the road, officers and deputies discovered only the police had been shooting at the truck–neither occupant was armed. Read the full story of how an officer was criminally charged for firing 31 shots at the truck, and listen to Moran’s 911 call here.

Dispatchers Honored

Seattle (Wash.) police dispatchers Debra Cepeda and Lieth Nedell were honored at the annual Seattle Police Foundation‘s awards banquet for their handling of a 911 call last July from a shooting victim during which the suspect came on the line. Cepeda appeared in a pre-taped video during the banquet, recounting some of the shooting at the Jewish Federation offices that ended with one death and five injuries. “This was such an incredibly fast event from beginning to end, from the time shots were fired until he just finally said, ‘OK, I’m coming out, I’m giving up,'” Cepeda said on the video. Cepeda is a 23-year veteran, while Nedell had just 13 months experience. Read more here.

Chase Mis-Communication

Two Georgia law enforcement agencies are studying how and why they chased a mini-van on Interstate 75 at speeds of nearly 100 mph, until it finally blew a tire on spike strips and pulled over. Interestingly, the driver was a Houston County sheriff’s sergeant enroute to assist a deputy, and the chaser was a state trooper who had clocked the van with radar at 93 mph. Both officers had radio contact with their own dispatcher, but neither had the ability to communicate with each other, a newspaper story pointed out. The mix-up apparently stemmed from a mis-communication: the county dispatcher believed the pursuing trooper was also responding to back-up the deputy needing help. In fact, one trooper was pursuing, and a second was responding to help the deputy. Read the full account here.