The TriValley Central Web site has posted a long profile of the Pinal County (Ariz.) Sheriff’s Office comm center, in which Sheriff Chriz Vasquez himself writes about the work that’s done and the skills required to be a dispatcher there. In his monthly piece Vasquez gives lots of statistics, but also praises the dispatchers for their work. He concludes, “To each of these dedicated communication specialists, I give my greatest respect and say thank you for their commitment to Pinal County and the people we serve.” Read the story here.
A Houston (Tex.) man had an accident and dialed 911 to report it, along with his observation that the other driver was grossly intoxicated. The man made several follow-up calls, but dispatchers continued to tell him that other calls were a priority. Finally, after waiting two hours the man decided to report the accident at a police sub-station, and watched the other driver stumble back into his car and drive off. A TV report of the incident finished with the information that Houston PD is “short staffed by about 600 officers.” Read the story here. The city is also debating a new no-pursuit policy, detailed in this story.
German government officials have selected the contractors for a new digital radio system to be completed in 2010, and that will serve the national police and border guards. The $1.28 billion system was awarded to European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co., Europe’s biggest aerospace company, and Siemens AG. Read more here.
A new radio patch now connects Boulder County (Colo.) agenies on VHF with surrounding agencies on 800 MHz trunked radio systems, allowing them to communicate during wide-scale incidents. The county says converting to their own 800 MHz system would cost from $12 million to $50 million, so they will improve the link between their own system and others. A news story says Motorola will give the county a “grant” of $693,732 to improve their towers. Read about the system here.
The towns of Devens, Boxborough, Harvard and Littleton (Mass.) have been debating a consolidated dispatching operation for the past 18 months, and still can’t arrive at a consensus on how to proceed. Harvard officials are backing away from the plan, while Littleton officials are undecided. The remaining towns want to fund a study to determine costs, but that study itself would cost $60,000 to $80,000. A state study concluded that operations would be improved if the four towns jointly operated a public safety comm center, especially from increased staffing for each shift. Read more of the story here.
Apparently police in the tiny town of Wabash (Ind., pop. 11,743) are using audio surveillance to help their criminal investigations, and want to discourage criminals from finding the hidden devices. The city council has passed an ordinance making it illegal to possess unregistered radio frequency indicators, and sets fines of up to $7,000. Owners of such devices much register them with the police chief, officials said. The law was proposed by a drug task force member after an RF indicator was found during a drug arrest.
The Cellular Telecommunications & Information Association (CTIA) has filed comments with the FCC on post-Katrina recommendations to improve communications, saying cellular carriers want to be part of the group that receives priority on power restoration after a natural disaster. Power company Southern Co. has said it opposes adding cellular tower sites to the priority list because it would complicate restoration. Read a story about the issue here.
The 143 dispatchers at the Las Vegas (Nev.) police comm center are typically working 877 hours of overtime each week, in order to cover 83 unfilled positions. The dispatchers normally work 42-1/4 hours a week, and are required to work at least 2-1/4 hours additional. But apparently lots of them are working even longer hours to maintain their performance goal of answering 90 percent of the incoming 911 calls within 10 seconds. Read more about their plight here.
NENA has posted their position on the Cyren Call proposal to allocate more spectrum to public safety in the 700 MHz band, saying, “It is imperative for Congress and the FCC to initiate proceedings in an accelerated manner to seek public comment on the Cyren Call Communications proposal.” The group said it, “appreciates the innovative approach and the significant potential benefits to the public safety community,” of the plan. But it added that, “NENA wishes to make clear that having such a public discussion should not in any way delay the ongoing deployment of interoperable systems in the 24 MHz of spectrum already allocated for public safety.” Read the entire document here.
An arbitrator ordered Athens County (Ohio) to reinstate a 911 dispatcher who was fired last November over charges he appeared at work intoxicated and was abusive to a fellow dispatcher, and now the local police union is going to court to force the county to comply. The arbitrator said Warren Ferguson was a “troubled employee” who was suffering from emotional problems related to his life situation, and should receive his job back after he demonstrated he could handle it. The county says it plans to appeal the arbitrator’s order, but won’t offer Ferguson his job back in the meantime. Read more about the situation here. [follow-up story.]
The Longview (Wash.) Daily News has posted a long profile of the Cowlitz County public safety comm center, including the types of calls they receive for five police and nine fire agencies, along with the county sheriff. Read the article here.
VoIP provider Vonage said that it now has nearly 85% of its customers’ lines connected directly to PSAPs, allowing them to more quickly connect 911 calls. Vonage also claimed that problems with AT&T are preventing implementation of the final 15% of its VoIP lines. “We think it’s going to be an uphill battle to get that [AT&T] percentage on par with the other carriers,” said Steve Seitz, the company’s vice president of 911 regulatory affairs. AT&T has disputed Vonage’s claims in filings with the FCC. Read more here.
Macon (Geo.) police say that three police radios and programming gear was stolen from the city’s radio facility during two separate burglaries, and there is a difference of opnion on whether the theft signals something more sinister. The city operates an 800 MHz, P25 trunked radio system. The police officer taking the burglary report recommended that it be reported to the FBI and DHS, but another police official said it wasn’t necessary. Police later arrested and fired one of their own police officers after a tip led them to a suspect, and evidence at that house led them to the officer’s home where a department radio was located. Read more here.
A state study of Boston’s underground transit tunnels has found that police, fire and other emergency workers would have limited communications during an emergency. Local agencies are not linked to the existing transit radio system, officials noted, and there are significant dead spots and static on the system. Read more about the study here.
A consultant has recommended some wide-ranging recommendations for the Hamilton County (Ohio) 911 operation, including creating a stand-alone agency that consolidates the current multi-agency dispatch operations. The consulting group Maximus was paid $50,000 for the study, which alsorecommends a two-stage dispatching process, instead of the current combined calltaking and radio dispatch operation. The comm center should be accredited through CALEA, and be governed by a board with representatives from all participating agencies. Read more about the study here.