Tech company Visteon Corp. is field-testing an integrated, voice-activated, touch-screen control device for law enforcement patrol cars, and the Michigan State Police say they want to install 50 of the devices in their patrol units at $12,000 each. The devices can recognize about 120 voice commands, and link to almost anything in the car: radar, video cameras, radios and lights. One capability is suspicious: MSP trooper Rene Gonzales told the reporter, “The volume on the AM/FM radio is automatically muted if I activate my police radio.” Read the story here.
The Philadelphia Weekly Web site says a police department report last June recommended a back-up comm center, but that a staffing shortage is actually a more critical problem now. The story says 14 dispatchers were laid off in Jan. 2005 during a budget cut and, “the staffing level has yet to recover due to retirements and the high turnover rate for dispatchers.” And over the past 10 years, incoming 911 calls have increased from 1.1 million calls to 3.3 million last year. Read the entire story here.
A federal appeals court in San Francisco has ruled that employees do not have an expectation of privacy for accounts on their work computers if they have been properly admonished. The decision in a Montana case upheld the conviction of a man who police say had pornographic materials stored on his work computer, and which the employer discovered and called police. A key portion of the court’s decision was that the company’s’ employees, “were apprised of the company’s monitoring efforts through training and an employment manual, and they were told that the computers were company-owned and not to be used for activities of a personal nature.” This notice provided objective proof, the court said, that the employee did not have a legitimate expectation of privacy. Download the court’s decision here (pdf).
A story in the Kansas City Star newspaper details how more Spanish-speakers are moving to the region, putting pressure on public safety comm centers to directly handle their 911 calls for help or transfer them to a translator. One problem is that up to 10% of the callers hang up before the translator can come on the line. Read more about their situation here.
The 800 MHz rebanding project continues to grind along, and to generate debate among the participants. First Motorola asked the FCC for the early release of funds to replace radios for agencies who have its 800 MHz systems. Then radio manufacturer EFJ filed an objection to Motorola’s plan with the FCC, calling it “ill-conceived and anticompetitive.” Now Motorola has filed a response to EFJ’s objections. Motorola says their proposal, “does not disadvantage other manufacturers and by opposing the proposal EFJ risks prolonging the potential for interference to public safety.”
An odd story posted on the Firehouse.com Web site details how Richmond (Virg.) added Nextel handsets and Blackberry PDAs to their own public safety radio system, creating “dramatically expanded logistical capabilities.” The site’s “TechZone Editor” Charles Werner explains how the city evaluated its own communications systems, and then decided to expand them using Sprint-Nextel gear, and how operations have improved. Fire chief Robert Creecy found that, “Command officers were having a difficult time performing the necessary email activity that was required during their daily routine,” the story says. Now, all the Spriny-Nextel equipment is “bundled under one government account,” and every fire officer has a Nextel handset assigned to him/her. Since the implementation, the story states, “There was an immediate reduction in radio traffic over the 800 MHz radio system as it naturally migrated over the Nextels, most commonly through the use of Direct Connect.” Read the entire story here.
Would you rent out your neighborhood alerting system to a non-emergency entity? That’s what the New Jersey State Police did when the New Jersey American Water Co. approached them to dial 72,000 residents of several towns in Atlantic County to notify them of water delivery restrictions. Turns out there was a problem with the dialing system, and only about 800 calls were made over the weekend, and apparently during the early morning hours when many people were sleeping or away from businesses. The company decided to end the calling, but now town officials are questioning the wisdom of using an emergency system for routine notifications. Read the story here.
An article in the Boston Globe newspaper gathers technology news and tries to imagine what the future of 911 might be like–and misses. The reporter correctly forecasts that an in-vehicle system might dial 911 when the airbags are deployed (although that’s actually current technology. But then the reporter muses, “Ten cars plow into the twisted wreck. Panicked witnesses dial 911. They shoot video of the scene with their cell phones.” Even more interesting is the prediction that, “Responders could send a video demo of the Heimlich maneuver to a cell phone if a family member is choking.” Read the entire story here.
Old Orchard Beach (Maine) dispatchers are facing lay-offs when dispatching operations for the town are moved to nearby Scarborough, which has offered only to consider them as new applicants for dispatcher positions. Dispatcher union president Andrea Perrone said their contract gives them seniority in any consolidation plan, including vacation time, shift selection and pay scale. But town manager Jim Thomas explained the comm center switch isn’t a consolidation. Read the full story here.
An article in the Pittsburgh (Penn.) Tribune newspaper recounts the role that Allegheny County 911 dispatcher Randy Tedesco played on Sept. 11th terrorist attacks–he received a call from the sister of a man who had found two officers trapped in the World Trade Center rubble, and who couldn’t reach local emergency workers on his cellular phone. He dialed his sister, who then reached Tedesco. After talking to the woman, Tedesco tried to reach New York City dispatchers, but the lines were jammed. He faxed and sent a message via NLETS. Several hours later he received a call back from NYPD saying they were enroute to the location, and later reported they had rescued the trapped persons. Read more here.
The father of a boy who was struck by lightning in Palmetto (Fla.) credited Lisa Kalmback with helping him save the 16 year-old. “She kept me sane – I was a basket case, really. She’s just a phenomenal lady,” he told a newspaper reporter. Read the full story here
The 911 Cares program has posted information on the tragic death of Moline (Ill.) Sgt. Michael Sottos, husband of former Moline dispatcher Debbie Sottos. He leaves behind five children, and his wife is expecting a sixth child. Check the memorial Web site or the 911 Cares Web page for how to help or send condolences.
The Tulsa World newspaper has a good article on state plans to create a state-wide 800 MHz trunked radio system for public safety agencies using $28 million in federal grant funds. In the story, a Motorola official claims the company has built 29 of 32 state radio systems across the country. Read the entire story and view the graphics here.
The Weather Channel announced its Emergency Manager Program designed to connect emergency managers with resources from The Weather Channel during hurricane season through twice-daily conference calls as storms approach, regular e-mail alerts and special Web-posted information. The pilot program also includes complimentary subscriptions to the Weather Channel’s Notify! Alert service, Desktop Max, and weather.com Gold products, the company says in a press release. Bad news…it’s by invitation-only at this point, but based on experience and feedback it will possibly be expanded in 2007 to include other agencies.
The city of Honolulu (Hi.) is in the midst of a huge project to replace eight of the 24 towers that support the city/county public safety radio system and upgrade other components, at a cost of $22.5 million. A new city analysis of the project says they towers will be replaced over the next 2-3 years. Read the story here.