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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.

Illinois Interop Challenges

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.

Cross-State Interop

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.

Phase II Surcharge Vote

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.

Half of Dispatchers Resign

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.

Police Shooting On Tape

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.

Canada Radio Issues

Chateauguay (Canada) police officers are using cellular phones as back-up to the department’s radio system until the city can find funding for a $500,000 upgrade to improve coverage. The current system wasn’t designed to cover 77 square miles of the city and surrounding towns that use the radio system. A news article states, “Thus police agents are sometimes incapable of communicating with their head office and their colleagues via the radio attached to their uniforms.” Read more here.

Maine Regional Dispatch

The state of Maine is requiring local public safety agencies to regionalize their communications operations, but the mandate has sparked debate of local control, funding and efficiency. The Public Utilities Commission is administering the consoldiation effort, similar to what has occurred in many other states hoping to reduce spending and improve communications. On Sept. 25th the Commission will issue a list of PSAPs that should be closed and their operations moved to a regional center. The legislature’s mandate set a deadline of Oct. 1, 2007 to reach jsut 26 PSAPs, down from the current 46. Read more here.

No Discipline for Absence

Grand Rapids (Mich.) fire chief John VanSlokema will not discipline the crew of a fire engine that was out of the station on errands when a man suffered a heart attack in their district and later died. An editorial in the Grand Rapids Press newspaper said there are still questions about why the fire unit was retrieving dry boots from another station during the incident, and why it took dispatchers 90 seconds to alert units to the incident. The second-due unit responed and arrived 9 minutes after the first 911 call. The newspaper said, “But there were better options to getting dry boots than leaving a fire station empty to pick them up.” Read more here.

New 911 Gear

An article in the Daily Herald newspaper says that the Provo (Utah) police comm center has, “recently purchased a machine that will allow dispatch agents to locate cell phone callers.” Actually, it’s a computerized system by Positron Public Safety Systems that was purchased for $250,000, and will display Phase II mapping information for cellular 911 calls. Read more about the city’s new system here.

Pager Problems

The Flathead County (Mont.) administrative board has hired RCC Consulting for $57,000 to perform a study of their public safety paging system, and make rcommendations improving radio coverage so firefighters don’t miss incidents notifications. During August officials said they sent out 158 pages, but 8 of those failed to set off pagers in the field. Read more about cellular phone glitches, staffing problems and lack of funding at the center here.

New Radio System

The Waxahachie (Tex.) city council has approved a lease/purchase arrangement for a new $1.3 million radio system upgrade, tagging along on the existing Motorola, 800 MHz trunked radio system operated by the Houston-Galveston Area Council. Police officers and firefighters have complained that the current city system doesn’t have sufficient in-building coverage, and usually have to post personnel outside to relay information during incidents. The new system has better coveage, and will allow interoperability among more Ellis County public safety agencies.