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Judge Rules in Lawsuit

Waterford (Conn.) dispatcher Laurie Lewis filed a federal lawsuit against the town, its fire administrator and a selectman, saying she was promoted and worked as a supervisor for two years, but was never paid the additional salary she was promised. Now a judge has ruled that she wasn’t entitled to the pay, through a strange circumstances: the supervisor’s position had been eliminated by the town, but the fire commissioners promoted her into the position anyway. She believed she had been promoted, but the judge ruled against Lewis in the lawsuit. She had claimed violations of her property rights and right to due process, as established in the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; that the town failed to fairly compensate her under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938; and caused her severe emotional distress.

Airport Interop System

Dallas (Tex.) Love Field has debuted a mesh network technolgy to link the radio systems of different agencies is a major emergency occurs at the huge airport. The system was developed and installed by CoCo Communications, and was funded with $979,100 from a federal DHS grant.

VoIP: State of Union

VoIP Magazine has published a long article describing the current state of VoIP E911, including regulatory and technical issues that have been both solved and yet to be implemented. Read the entire article here.

APCO Reaction on VoIP Law

APCO issued a statement saying that it applauds the U.S. Senate passage of legislation that requires VoIP providers to connect customers to local PSAPs.  “APCO International greatly appreciates the Senate’s bipartisan efforts to adopt VoIP/9-1-1 legislation without provisions that would have undermined the FCC’s rules,” the group said. Wording in a similar bill would have delayed enforcement of the FCC’s previous requirement to link VoIP providers’ lines to the country’s PSAPs. “”APCO International will object to any statutory language that provides loopholes for VoIP providers to avoid 9-1-1 obligations, or delays the enforcement of the FCC Order,” APCO president Wanda McCarley said.

Vonage Response Delay

Bedford (Mass.) police chief James Hicks said a homeowner’s 911 call using a Vonage-enable telephone caused a one to two-minute delay in dispatching units to a house fire, but that the house probably would have been destroyed anyway. He said the homeowner had a previous lived in Arlington, and kept that number when he moved to a new house in Bedford. However, he failed to notify Vonage of his change of address. A second 911 call by neighbor was made on a phone line provided by cable carrier Comcast, and it was mistakenly routed to New Bedford. Hicks said the area of the fire is a new development and may not have been in Comcast 911 database yet. Read more, including Vonage’s reaction here.

Las Vegas Is Hiring

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.

Text Message Rescue

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 Applauds VoIP Law

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.

Central Dispatch Objections

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.

Intrado Does LA VoIP

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.

Philly Radio Glitch

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.

Caller Asked to Investigate

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.

Plenty of Overtime

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.

Huge NYC Data Contract

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 TERT Program

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.