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911 Abuse Calls

The problem of 911 abuse isn’t limited to America’s biggest cities, as dispatchers in Barron County (Wisc.) have discovered. They say that children are using unregistered cellular phones to make prank 911 calls. Sheriff’s offiials believe that the phones are those that parents no longer needed, and handed off to their children to play with. Communications supervisor Gay Radosevich dispatchers are fielding calls from six individual phones a day, and sometimes 15 calls from one phone. A sheriff’s department press release reminds citizens that even un-subscribed phones can still dial 911, and to properly dispose of the phones. Most cellular carriers have recycling programs, they noted.

Kids Honored for 911 Calls

El Cajon (S. Calif.) elementary students Kenny Hartaway and Briana Espinoza were honored by the 9-1-1 For Kids program for dialing 911 when their mothers fell ill in separate incidents, but recovered when EMS units responded. “My mom is dying,” said the 6-year-old Hartaway when he dialed 911 after his mom suffered a diabetic seizure. told an emergency dispatcher at 5:03 a.m. Aug. 31, as his mom was having a diabetic seizure. In the other incident, 11 year-old Briana Espinoza told a dispatcher her mom was having breathing problems. Briana was awarded a new bicycle during ceremonies, and Hartaway received a Sony PlayStation 2.

Dispatcher Helps Delivery

Congrats to Knox County (Ohio) 911 dispatcher Leslie Orr for answering a 911 line at 2:16 a.m. to find a father-to-be saying that his new baby was arriving quickly. Orr gave the man instructions to deliver the baby on the floor of the bathroom. He later told a reporter about Orr, “She made us feel like we could actually do it, and she was very calm. I never heard any panic in her voice so I felt like we could do it.” Read more and see a photo of the happy group here.

3 Dispatchers Suspended

Prince George’s County (Md.) officials have put three dispatchers on paid leave while they investigate how they handled a 911 call from a man who was shot and killed shortly after hanging up. Raymond Brown, 36, dialed 911 about 2 a.m. to report his car was being towed from his home, and two dispatchers and a supervisor assummed it was being repossessed, police admit, and told Brown to call back later. Brown hung up, but followed the tow truck in another vehicle, and was then shot and killed by someone in the truck, police say. Police are still investigating the murder, and say their internal investigation might take a week to complete.

Phase 0 Call Transferred

The benefits of Phase II wireless E911 were demonstrated by a 911 from a South Carolina motorist trying to report what sounded like a serious crime. A woman was flagged down by a child along the road, saying her mother was being “raped” by the husband in a nearby vehicle. The motorist was near the Hoke-Cumberland County boundary, which also defines the city limit of Fayetteville. The cellular call was answered by a Hoke County dispatcher, who questioned the woman, and then transferred her to a Cumberland County dispatcher, who again questioned the woman. Finally, she was transferred to Fayetteville police, who responded to the scene. Hoke County officials say they handle 10-12 calls a day on 911 that they must transfer to the Cumberland. Read more about the incident here.

Last Town Consolidates

One of the last independent public safety comm center in Allegheny County (Penn.) will close and operations folded into the county’s comm center after the Tarentum borough council voted to make the move. The town of 5,000 residents is now spending $317,000 a year to operate the center, at the same time that residents are paying $1 a month to a surcharge fund that goes straight to the county center. No word on what will happen to the borough’s three full-time and several part-time dispatchers after the closure.

Smoking = Call 911

A contradiction has arisen in Omaha (Neb.), where police are telling residents to dial 911 to report violations of the the smoking ban at businesses that serve food or alcohol, but they’re considered low-priority incidents. PIO Sgt. Teresa Negron told a reporter, “”[It’s like] any other crime that happens in any city — if somebody sees a crime happen, they can call 911 and report it.” She said that during the first week dispatchers handled about 10 calls related to the new smoking law. “Calls concerning the smoking ban were not high-priority calls, so we have a system in place that calls that come in and have a higher priority will be handled.”

Firefighter Wins Appeal

An arbitrator has ruled that Peabody (Mass.) firefighter John Brophy was disciplined too severely for sleeping through a telephone call from the police department reporting a medical emergency. Brophy was working the watch desk in May 2005, but had gone to sleep in a firehouse bed when a police dispatcher tried to notify him of an infant with a breathing problem. Police officers had to drive to the firehouse and pound on the door to alert firefighters. The city fired Brophy, but an arbitrator has now ruled he should be suspended for 30 days without pay. The city said an off-duty altercation between Brophy and a fire captain, and a work-related drug testing dispute also figured in his firing. The city is considering whether to appeal the arbitrator’s ruling.

NENA Proposes Fed Goals

NENA has posted a White Paper that proposes goals for the recently-implemented, federal-level 9-1-1 Implementation and Coordination Office (ICO), noting there is plenty of work that could be done before grant money is available in 2008. The association says the ICO should build awareness of the federal office, research and disseminate 911 information, perform state outreach, promote next-generation 911, and begin setting grant standards. Download the entire White Paper here.

Keep Transmitters On = $$$$

Suffolk (UK) police have been told they can keep five of their radio system’s antena sites turned on…if they come up with $222,000 a year to pay the company that operates the national Airwave police network. The company O2 built the law enforcement radio system in the UK, and says the five antenna sites aren’t needed for full coverage for the Suffolk police. They say the completed system was found to have lots of overlapping radio coverage, which they say was never part of the original contract. But police officials dispute that claim. Jim Keeble, chairman of the Suffolk Police Federation, told a reporter that O2’s plans as an example of “sharp business practice,” and that officer safety would be at issue if the antenna sites are turned off.

Dispatcher Saves Women

Kudos to Angels Ambulance (Mass.) dispatcher Joseph Jackson, who pulled three women from a burning home in Brockton that he spotted while coming home from work. Jackson, 24, and his cousin saw the smoke from the house, stopped and grabbed the women as they were inside trying to rescue their dogs. “The smoke was just intense. I don’t know how they withstood to go in there two times to get the dogs,” Jackson told a reporter. Read more about the fire here.

Judge Tosses Lawsuit

Camden (NJ) Superior Court judge Charles A. Little dismissed a lawsuit against former dispatcher Marie Cupparo and the city of Camden, saying state law provides immunity for them in this situation. The suit was filed by the family of Christin Eberle, who was kidnapped from a transit station and murdered by two men in 2001, and a witness dialed 911 to report it. However, according to Camden police, Cupparo failed to dispatch officers, who believed it was a disagreement that apparently didn’t require a police response. The two suspects were caught and convicted, and are served 43-year sentences in prison. The region’s transit agency reached a confidential settlement with the family last week. The family’s attorney says they will appeal.

FCC Refuses Waiver

The FCC does give public safety agencies some benefits when allocating spectrum, but you still have to prove your case. A recent FCC waiver denial outlines why Morgan County (Tenn.) did not receive permission to use a VHF paging channel to create a repeated radio channel for their EMS operations. The FCC said the county failed to provide support for its claim that no other VHF frequencies were available, did not include a request for the second needed frequency, and failed to demonstrate “any unique or unusual factual circumstances that would warrant grant of a waiver.” The Commission did say the county could re-file the request. Download (pdf) the FCC’s decision and reasoning here.

Debate Over Center Size

Two Kern County (Calif.) officials butted heads over the size of a proposed emergency operations center for the county’s public safety agencies. Fire chief Dennis Thompson and assistant county administrative officer Bill Wilbanks debated the issue during a county board meeting, the former proposing 10,000 square-feet, and the latter 4,000 s.f. Apparently there was a mis-communication over the issue, and both shooks hands after some terse words during the meeting. No word on why a fire chief and an admin officer were making the size decision. Read more here.

No Money for Radio

Selectmen in the town of Southborough (Mass.) are willing to spend $65,000 to upgrade the police department’s radio system to eliminate deadspots–but not until 2008. Chief William Webber said the black-out zones include a commuter rail station where officers handled an incident last August when a man jumped from a train. Two officers that were 200 yards apart could not communicate at the scene. Officers claim that 20% of the town isn’t covered by the radio system.