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Dispatchers Arrested

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.

State-Wide Radio Benefits

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.

Dispatcher Wins Lottery…Big

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.

North Carolina 911 Outage

A wide swath of eastern North Carolina was without E911 service on Monday evening, apparently caused by a cable problem. Officials in at least 10 counties said they had no 911 service for about four hours starting at 4:30 p.m. Telehone company officials said that long-distance service was also affected, and they were looking for the source of the problem.

Baby Save 911 Tape

City of Roanoke (Virg.) E911 dispatcher Sarah Wood fielded a call from an employee at a local animal shelter, where a passerby had rushed in to report a 4 month-old baby wasn’t breathing. The logging recorder tape of the call demonstrates the rapid pace of such calls and, fortunately, the happy ending. Wood spoke to the employee, who relayed the medical instructions to the employee, who relayed them to another employee. Listen (.wma) to the call here.

Teen 911 Callers Are Guilty

Two Tioga County (NY) teens were found guilty by a judge of making a long string of obscene and prank 911 calls to the county’s 911 center–482 calls over one month, including 198 in a 24-hour period. The two 17 year-olds weren’t identified because of their age, but have been in jail since their Sept. 22nd arrest. Officially they were charged with one felony count each of computer crime and misdemeanor counts of obstructing administration of government, false alarms, obstructing emergency services, terrorist threats, harassment, reckless endangerment and disorderly conduct.

800 Rebanding Wave 3

The FCC has given formal notice of the so-called “Wave 3″ of the 800 MHz rebanding process beginning November 1st. The process includes a specifies a 3-month voluntary negotiation period with Nextel on the details of relocating, followed by a 3-month mandatory negotiation period, if required. Download (pdf) the notice and a list of the affected regions here.

Death of Dispatcher

Twenty-year former Cuyahoga Falls (Ohio) Police Department dispatcher Karen Tomlinson has passed away from unknown causes at her home. According to her co-workers, she was a trusted friend and ultimate professional who cared about the public safety communications community. She organized a “care package” program for New York City dispatchers after Sept. 11th, and last October was honored with the annual Tom Weiss Dispatcher of the Year award from the Summit County Public Safety Telecommunicators Training Committee. A memorial service for Mrs. Tomlinson was held Wednesday at the Northampton United Methodist Church in Cuyahoga Falls.

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.