The National Incident Dispatcher Association (NIDA) has quickly filled up its alloted 200 charter members, and is now taking on-line application for general memberships in the categories of Active, Associate, Retired and Commercial Levels. The new association reflects the increasing interest in field-level dispatching and the training required for its specialized operations. The group is offering 15-month memberships for the price of 12. To apply, surf here.
The Sunday episode of CBS’ “Without a Trace” was accurate on some dispatching details, but was not authentic on either New York City’s dispatching procedures or technology. The biggest problem was the overly complex story that put a PSTD-inflicted 911 calltaker into the role of revenger for a sexual assault that took place in her past. Jessica, the missing dispatcher being tracked by the FBI’s special unit, was helping domestic violence victims off-duty, which generated lots of false leads–and the death of her pet dog. Eventually the FBI’s attention focused on a 911 call Jessica had answered, during which she apparently recognized the caller’s voice as the man who raped her six years earlier when she was in medical school. She then stole a handgun and confronted the man in a warehouse, but the FBI arrived in time to convince her at gunpoint that she had the wrong suspect. The dispatching details succeeded where they could have sunk the show. But It was the flipped-out dispatcher who definitely pushed the show into strange-ville.
The opening paragraph of a Louisville (Ken.) Courier-Journal newspaper story takes an optimistic approach. “Two companies are bidding to install the next phase of Louisville metro government’s planned emergency communication system, raising hopes that the price will be more in line with what city officials had expected,” the story begins. Apparently the reporter doesn’t realize that it also increases the risk that the final bid award will end with a protest by either M/A-COMM or Motorola. Last May the city threw out the single Motorola bid it received, because it was $95 million, over what the city’s is willing to pay. Read more about the bids here.
The lives of York County (SC) law enforcement officers are on the line, according to those who spoke to the Herald newspaper, if politicians don’t agree to pay fees associated with the county’s new 800 MHz trunked radio system coming on-line later this year. The mostly-small cities are balking at paying the fees associated with buying new radios and have asked the county to forego the fees, but so far the county has declined. Read more here.
An inscription in stone at the entrance to the new Unified Communications Center in Washington (DC) states, “We can, we will safeguard our great city and our people.” DC and regional officials cut the ribbon last week for the new center that consolidates public safety communications for the District’s police, fire and EMS agencies, and also provides EOC space for multitude of regional agencies to handle major incidents. The 127,000 square-foot facility includes a child-care center for employee’s, a stress reduction room, a cafeteria and “terrace retreat” overlooking the city. The building also houses the District’s city-service call center, which is now reachable by a 7-digit number. Find more information about the UCC here.
The huge fire in a chemical waster processing plant forced the evacuation of dispatchers at the Apex (NC) comm center on Friday morning. All 911 calls to the town (pop. 20,012) were re-routed to the Wake County 911 center for handling. The county also activated its emergency alerting system, which telephoned residents with shelter-in-place and evacuations orders. There have been no fatalities reported so far, but at least 44 persons were taken to hospitals for treatment from the huge toxic clouds that formed over the plant following giant explosions, and which then drifted over the town.
A two-part goof put officers at the back door of a Bethalto (Mo.) home, where they obtained permission from the owner to search the house, and found an illegal fully-automatic rifle. An unnamed dispatcher received a cellular 911 call and only heard a female voice screaming. Officers were dispatched to the ALI-displayed location, which turned out to be about a mile from the actual caller. When police arrived at the wrong home, they couldn’t make contact with anyone, and so walked next door to find a broken back window (which turned out to be accidental). They contacted the owner, who granted permission to search, and a modified, full-auto AK-47 was found. The suspect has now pleaded guilty in federal court.
This Sunday’s episode of the CBS prime time show Without a Trace is entitled, “911,” and the network summarizes it as, “Malone and the team search for a 911 operator who goes missing after receiving a threatening phone call from a man who asked for her by name.” A preview of the episode shows a man confronting a woman in front of the comm center building and shouting, “You put me on hold for five minutes!” Check you local listings–you won’t want to miss this one!
Three alert tones on the radio were part of ceremonies honoring Hall County (Geo.) Deputy Tim White, who died one year ago in an auto accident. Following the tones, a dispatcher announced on the radio that White’s badge #419 would be retired. White was the first deputy at the agency to die in the line of duty. Sheriff Steve Cronic said the agency would forever commemorate Oct. 3rd to observe and remember White, not to dwell on his death, but “how enriched we were by having Tim as part of our family.”
Cyren Call chairman Morgan O’Brien has convinced four venture capital firms to invest $4 million in the company, apparently hoping to take an early stake in a potentially lucrative bid to design, build and operate a nationwide public safety radio system. O’Brien is now lobbying members of Congress to reserve certain spectrum for public safety, rather than auction it off to commercial interests and send the revenues to the U.S. treasury. Under O’Brien’s plan, private companies and revenues from the public safety radio system would replace the auction revenues. Previous auctions have raised several billion dollars, with the latest auction raising $13.9 billion. Another company, M2Z Networks, has petitioned the FCC to build and operate a national radio network in 20 MHz of spectrum in the 2100 MHz band. The proposal includes providing some free services to public safety agencies, among other groups. Download (pdf) the M2Z proposal here.
In the rush to pass port security legislation last Friday night, the Congress stipped out an amendment that would set various VoIP/E911 provisions. Several members of Congress said they were disappointed about the removal, and that they would re-visit the legislation when Congress re-convenes after the November elections. Among other things, the legislation would have provided liability protection for VoIP providers offering 911 service, and established plans for a national, IP-based 911 network. Download (pdf) the proposed legislation here.
In an e-mail statement to members, NENA president Bill Munn said he has made the “difficult” decision to step down as president of the association in November, “to be more available for my family and also to pursue new employment opportunities.” He added that, “It has become apparent that my best opportunities are in the private sector or outside 9-1-1, both of which would preclude my being able to also serve effectively as NENA President.” His term as president would have ended in June 2007. Munn said that many of his goals had been met, and that 1st Vice President, Jason Barbour would serve out the remainder of his term.
Two Philadelphia (Penn.) dispatchers have been arrested and charged with illegally accessing the state’s vehicle registration database, and then passing the information along to a person who they expected would rob the owners. U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan issued a statement announcing the arrest of Patricia Bradley, 35, and Tamara Mitchell, 38. They were arrested under federal extortion and aiding/abetting charges. The man to whom the information was passed was apparently an informant, and tipped off police. The women solicited money for the information, sources told reporters, and received $50 to $100 per name. Bradley was a dispatcher from March 2003 to Feb. 2006, when she was fired. Mitchell has been a dispatcher since 2001 and was still employed when she was arrested. Court documents said at least four vehicle registrations were accessed by the women, and passed along to the person the women believed was a robber.
An article in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette newspaper relates how Hardy fire chief Lonnie Phelps wasn’t impressed by the state’s $75 million, state-wide radio system. “I really didn’t know when we’d use them. I didn’t understand them that well,” he said of the $3,000 radios. Then flooding hit the region and 20 counties showed up to help, and Phelps changed his mind. “Now that I know more about them, and know what they are for, I’ve decided they are a good thing,” he told the reporter. Read more about the radio system here.
Aurora (Ill.) public safety dispatcher Christy Davis has won the state’s “Set For Life” lottery prize of $100,000 a year for life, awarded during a Chicago Cubs baseball game. “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God. I don’t believe it,” Davis said when she was announced as the winner. She said she would not quit her job, but did say, “No more overtime!” Davis, 33, qualfied for the lottery prize after mailing in $30 of non-winning tickets, and 16 finalists were randomly selected. The 16 attended the game and learned what they had won, ranging from cash for a leased car, to the grand prize awarded to Davis. She plans to hire a financial consultant, and will plan a Hawaiian family vacation.