Over 200 persons showed up to take the written test for the Las Vegas (Nev.) Metro police comm center, but officials say just a few of those will successfully pass all the testing and screening processes to fill 80 vacant positions. During a pre-testing meeting with applicants, Karen Krauss of Metro’s personnel department told the group, “(I) want to stress that the dispatch specialists are one of the most important positions to the department, to the community. You are an integral part to get our services out to the community.” After the written test will be another testing round and a background check. It could take a year to get the dispatchers behind the console and on their own.
A dispatcher has to be ready to track down all types of communication: A 14 year-old North Carolina kidnap victim was rescued when she managed to grab a cellular phone and text message her mother. The girl’s father then called police, and dispatchers then had to track down the owner of the phone and its location from cellular company records. Officers responded to the area of the receiving cellular tower and located the girl in the doorway of an underground bunker where she had been held for nearly 10 days. The suspect had fled just after he discovered the girl had sent her message. He was arrested hours later and is in jail. Read more here.
NENA issued a statement saying it applauded Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) for their support of the IP-Enabled Voice Communications and Public Safety Act of 2006 (S.B. 1063). The Senate just voted to include the legislation in a part of the Safe Port Act they will soon consider. NENA said the bill “addresses several important issues and provides tools to support the national deployment of E9-1-1 for VoIP.” Specifically, it would onfirm the states’ authority to impose and collect 911 fees from VoIP providers; provide liability parity for PSAPs, VoIP providers and users of VoIP services equivalent to existing protections for other services; ensure that VoIP providers have access to E911 infrastructure necessary to complete E911 deployment; and require the National 911 Implementation and Coordination Office to submit a plan to Congress on the migration towards a modernized IP-Enabled 911 system. Find S.B. 1063 here.
Both Kennebec County (Maine) sheriff Everett Flannery Jr. and Waterville police chief John E. Morris say they oppose to a state plan that would route 911 calls from their local comm centers and directly to the Central Maine Regional Communication Center in Augusta. But there’s a state mandate to consolidate comm centers within the state, so the two comm centers may not have a choice. Both law enforcement officers said that service would suffer if 911 calls are routed to the state, and would cost the agencies more money. Read more about the situation here.
Software services company Intrado Inc. announced that it has deployed its VoIP/E911 technology solution in Los Angeles County (Calif.), allow VoIP callers to be connected directly to the appropriate PSAP when they dial 911. The company said it worked with all the public safety agencies in the county to develop the database information and then deploy it county-wide. Test calls confirmed that the service provides accurate locations to dispatchers, the company said.
Philadelphia (Penn.) police officials reported that their police radio system suffered a long series of glitches on Sunday morning, creating interruptions to the flow of information. Chief Inspector Michael Feeney transmissions would drop out for 10 to 15 seconds at a time, and was traced to a link between the comm center and a transmitter site. Officers doubled up for safety until the problem can be resolved, and a back-up radio system was being used.
Elyria police are investigating how a 911 call was handled, during which the dispatcher asked the 17 year-old caller to leave the phone and go track down a blood-covered man who the caller said was acting crazy inside the apartment building. The caller asked the dispatcher if he should stay in his apartment with the door locked. But the unnamed dispatcher told him, “Go get him,” apparently believing the man was a victim. The teen said he followed the dispatcher’s instructions and went back out into the hallway to find the man. Now the teen’s mother has complained to police that they put her son in jeopardy. Police arrived, found the man and arrested him for shooting his girlfriend to death. Read the entire story here.
The Westmoreland County (Penn.) 911 center has plenty of overtime, so much, in fact that some dispatchers are tripling their pay to almost $90,000 a year. A story in the Tribune-Review newspaper named dispatchers Michael Kelp, Timothy O’Donnell and other county workers who are working huge amounts of overtime. The dispatchers told the reporter they needed to work up to 1,200 extra hours a year (57% extra) to make ends meet. Comm center officials say they need to staff all shift, using just 46 employees out of 52 authorized positions. Read the entire story here.
If you had any doubt about the value of public safety communications systems, consider the huge, $500 million contract just signed by Northrop Grumman with New York City to build and operate a broadband mobile data system over the next five years. The first segments of the network will be operational in Jan. 2007, and allow field units to share maps, diagrams, video and other high-bandwidth information with command sites. The underlying technology is based on UMTS, a transmission standard that now offers speeds of 384 kbps, and up to 2 Mbps eventually. Northrop is working with IPWireless to implement the system.
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has announced what may be the first state-level, mutual-aid program to train and deploy dispatchers during natural disasters or terrorism events. Dubbed the Illinois Telecommunicator Emergency Response Taskforce (IL-TERT), the program is expected to be operational by Jan. 1, 2007. Thirty agencies will initially be involved in the program, receiving their training using a $300,000 state grant. Either teams will be organized across the state, and will provide personnel and communications gear to respond to incidents when requested by local agencies. Read the governor’s press release here.
A long story in the Chicago Daily Herald looked at the communications lessons of Sept. 11th, and the needed improvements that were recommended by experts. The article concludes, “Five years later, emergency officials in suburban Chicago say that Illinois heeded that call in part, installing expensive equipment throughout the state and Chicago area that increases the vital flow of communication between police, firefighters, public works, local municipalities, counties and state officials.” The state has spent $27.6 million to improve communications among public safety agencies. The story says, “Costs aren’t the only challenge to better communications. Agencies that aren’t traditionally used to working together have to work as a team.” Read more about what’s being done–or not–here.
A story in the Des Moines Register describes how Woodbury County (Ia.) has a radio interoperability solution that links the county’s agencies with each other, and to adjoining counties in Nebraska and South Dakota. A $6 million grant has allowed the region to centralize its communications and to create radio system links to improve coordination of multi-agency incidents. Read more about their solutions here.
Voters in Garfield County (Okla.) will decide on Nov. 7 whether to approve a 50-cent surcharge increase to fund a Phase II upgrade, allowing Enid/Garfield County dispatchers to see the location of wireless 911 callers. Enid police Capt. Jim Nivison explained the limitations of the current system to a reporter, and added, “Because of these limitations, finding someone in need of emergency assistance who has called 911 from a cell phone is then largely dependent on the ability of the caller to articulate the incident and location to dispatchers.” Read more here.
A big staffing change in Marion County (Mo.), where six of the county’s 11 dispatchers resigned in the midst of on-going conflicts between some dispatchers and center director Mike Hall. Officials said they had anticipated the resignations and that administrative personnel would fill in until new dispatchers could be hired. Hall and supervisor Branson Wells were placed on administrative leave earlier this year for a month, but county officials would not explain why, or release details of why the two were returned to duty. Ironically, Hall told a newspaper, “I am very happy to confirm we have six” resignations. “Operationally we’ve already seen improvements as far as morale issues…The outcome is a very positive thing for us. We’re putting the problems that we’ve been dealing with behind us and are moving forward.” Read more here.
A logging recorder captured Santa Fe (NM) police using a Taser and their handguns on a man armed with a knife who had stabbed a relative and was also repeatedly stabbing himself. The tape is being used by police to investigate why the man acted so violently, and exactly what happened when he was confronted by three officers inside his home. For now, police chief Eric Johnson has says the officers followed the department’s lethal force policy. Read more and listen to the 911 call here.