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Illegal Computer Access

A judge has placed a Lancaster County (Penn.) made on five years’ probation after he pleaded guilty to illegally accessing the county’s password-protected public safety computer system. Duane Lamar Kline, 34, is a volunteer firefighter. Two other persons were arrested on similar charges, and received similar sentences.The state Attorney General’s Office is investigating allegations that local newspaper reporters accessed the same Web site using a coroner’s office password, but no charges have yet been made public. Read more here.

VoIP/911 Legislation Update

You may know that some legislation isn’t passed by Congress directly, but becomes part of more politically critical legislation as an amendment or “rider.” That’s exactly what is happening to VoIP/911 legislation being considered now by House-Senate committees after both houses passed different versions of a bill that would add requirements for VoIP providers to directly link to PSAPs. In this case, Congress will be taking their pre-election break by Sunday, and legislators are working hard to get a port security bill passed–along with the VoIP/911 provisions or not. There has been recent talk that the VoIP/911 language would be dropped entirely, but as of Thursday night it’s still in the bill. Find copies of the H.R. 4954 here.

COMCARE Urges Action

The COMCARE Alliance has joined national leaders of the deaf and hard of hearing communities in asking the FCC to upgrade the nation’s 911 network to allow improved access to those who are deaf, hard of hearing or speech disabled. Thirty organizations wrote the FCC that TTY-based communications is becoming “increasingly obsolete,” and that modern text and video communications capabilities should be adopted. COMCARE director David Aylward said in a statement, “Right now, an individual who witnesses an emergency event can take a picture of the incident on their cell phone and send it to anyone in the world–but they cannot send that image to 9-1-1 or other emergency agencies because these agencies do not have the ability to accept and process external data of any kind.” Download (pdf) the letter here.

Blind Dispatcher Is Certified

Thomas Faeser, 23, has received his 40-hour Mississippi state certification and will begin his job as a dispatcher for the Department of Marine Resources in Biloxi. He took the final exam orally, since he’s been totally blind since he was 18 years-old–and passed with perfect score. Faeser’s assistance dog Looker attended the dispatching classes given by trainer Robert Graham of the National Emergency Communications Institute, and received an honorary certificate of completion. Graham said Faeser is the first blind dispatcher in the state, and explained that he uses computer software to translate screen output to audio. Read a story about him here.

Study Urges New Thinking

A study of public safety communications by a non-profit policy group has concluded that agencies should embrace new technology, and shed the restrictions imposed by antiquated equpment, dedicated and narrowband spectrum, and gear manufactured for a single purpose. The Colorado-based Aspen Institute issud the 65-page report that additional spectrum and money are not the real solution. Rather, “The public safety community should migrate away from its traditional reliance on specialized equipment and embrace an integrated broadband infrastructure that will leverage technological innovations routinely being used in commercial sectors and the military.” Download (pdf) the group’s report here.

Groups Sign Global Pact

Signifying the global nature of public safety communications, APCO’s North American, Australasian, British and Canadian affiliates will sign a new collaboration agreement this Monday, and at the top of the CN Tower in Toronto (Canada), which claims the title of “World’s Tallest Building.” APCO says the alliance is intended to, “align the APCO organizations to promote the sharing of information, experiences, ideas and best practices.”

Dispatcher Retires, 26 Years

After 26 years at a console, Andover Township (NJ) dispatcher Ann Dennison has retired, prompting a surprise party attended by 70 persons to wish her well. She started part-time in 1978 when the police department had just four officers. She moved to full-time two years later, and now there are 11 officers and five full-time dispatchers. The 62 year-olod Dennison said the volume and type of calls has changed over the years. Read more here.

New FDNY Center

New York City mayor Michael Bloom-berg was on hand to inaug-urate the fire depart-ment’s new $17 million Fire Department Operations Center (FDOC) in Brooklyn, centralizing command and control of fire and EMS operations. Watch a video about the center, or read the city’s press release.

Vonage Now at 90%

VoIP provider Vonage announced that over 90% of their subscribers now have E911 service, linking them directly to 5,800 PSAPs for emergency calls. The company said they added 250 PSAPs to the list in just one month. Vonage subscribers must register their physical address with the company to enable the direct-to-PSAP 911 dialing. Customers who aren’t linked to a PSAP reach a Vonage call center, who then transfers the caller to the appropriate comm center.

Firefighters Not Told of Gun

The Henderson (Ark.) fire chief is upset with the way Baxter and Fulton County dispatchers handled an incident involving a man who threatened to shoot any firefighters who arrived at his house. In fact, firefighters arrived before sheriff’s deputies, and were never told on the radio of the threats before they arrived. A firefighter from another agency arrived and finally told the chief of the threats he overheard on his scanner. Read more about the chief’s concerns here.

Director Resigns

Carbon County 911 director Mary Kruzik has resigned for personal reasons after 2-1/2 years on the job. Kruzik and county commissioners had been the subject of a lawsuit filed by former dispatcher Mary Miller, who alleged that her private conversations were taped in the comm center, and then disclosed to others. A judge recently ruled against certain parts of Miller’s lawsuit. County Commissioner chair William O’Gurek said Kruzik was a 13-year employee at the agency. “‘She resigned for personal reasons that aren’t very clear to myself. She did a great job in the short term she had been up there.”

No Response to 911

Wayne County Communication Supervisor Delbert Edwards told a reporter that his agency has started an investigation into the handling of a 911 call from a man who reported he had been threatened by several armed persons in a car. No officers were dispatched to the incident, despite the man calling back once. On the logging tape, the man reported, “”They pulled out guns like mad crazy on me.” After several seconds of silence, the man says, “Hello?” and the dispatcher replied, “Yeah, I’m listening.” At the end of the call, the dispatcher only said that she would alert police, and told the man when he called by that officers were, “unable to locate (the suspects).”

Cayman Island’s 911 Turns 10

The 911 network in the Cayman Islands turned 10 years old this month, an event noticed by the local newspaper. A story noted that the 911 operators “are life savers,” and the position takes “a special calibre of person.” Read the story here.

Awating Interop Funding Grant

The Mid-America Regional Council (Kan./Mo.) has formed a task force to focus on a grant application that would fund Phase III of the region’s interoperability plan. The money could come be $1 billion in funds allocated through the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, and would require 20% matching from local governments. MARC intends to build a 700 MHz, Project-25 voice and radio network that would link the region’s public safety agencies.

Virg. High Turn-Over Rates

An article in the Roanoke Times (Virg.) notes the high turn-over rates for the region’s public safety comm center’s, up to 38 percent for one county. The story refers to a 2004 study commissioned by APCO that found a staffing crisis among centers nationwide, and points out the various problems that understaffing creates. Read the story and compare the turn-over rates here.