A local fire chief has raised the level of debate over how New Hampshire 911 calls are answered by telling his family to directly call the local fire department, and not to dial 911. Portsmouth fire chief Christopher Leclaire says the single, state-wide 911 public safety answering point (PSAP) takes too long to handle medical emergencies, seriously delaying the response of local EMS units. He believes the state should revise its procedures for questioning callers to immediately notify the involved EMS agency before asking any emergency medical dispatch (EMD) questions. However, state officials say they already offer an electronic method of notifying local agencies of emergency incidents while EMD is in progress, but that Portsmouth chose not to install the system. Portsmouth communications supervisor Gil Emery told a reporter the state computer system wasn’t compatible with the city’s existing gear, and would have required dispatchers to monitor yet another computer system. “It didn’t fit into our workflow,” Emery said. Read more about the debate over a quick response and the use of EMD here.
The New Jersey Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of Jersey City over a civil lawsuit filed by the family of three people murdered in 2005, and who claim a 911 calls from the victims’ apartment were mishandled by Jersey City dispatchers. Marcia Wilson and her young three children were stabbed repeatedly by Wilson’s brother during a violent attack. Wilson and two children were killed. A neighbor’s wireless 911 call reporting screams from Wilson’s apartment was mishandled, the lawsuit claimed, and police who eventually arrived at the apartment did not properly investigate. Two other 911 calls were also mishandled, the lawsuit claimed. A trial court dismissed the lawsuit, saying the defendants were given immunity under specific state law regarding public safety answering points (PSAP). But an appellate court reinstated the lawsuit against the city and its dispatchers. Now the city is appealing that ruling, and the state Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case. Read more about the latest action here, download (pdf) the plaintiff’s appellate court brief here, and download (pdf) the appeals court decision here.
A Bangor (Maine) public safety dispatcher has turned in additional petition signatures to the city clerk, qualifying his referendum on merging the city comm center with Penobscot County for a vote by citizens. The city council voted last October to close the city center and merge later this year. Bangor is the only city in the county with its own comm center. A consultant hired by the state in 2009 recommended the state move to a one-center-per-county comm center requirement. Bangor dispatcher Jim Morrill was the point person for a group of dispatchers and citizens who believe the city should not merge the comm center with Penobscot County. Morrill spoke during city council meetings and circulated a petition to put a referendum on the ballot that would reverse the council’s decision. Earlier this month he turned in his petitions, but the city clerk could not validate the required number of signatures. Morrill was given additional time, and has now submitted an additional batch of petitions that qualifies the referendum for a vote. Read more about the original council vote here.
In the face of a Congressional mandate to auction a portion of the 700 MHz band to commercial companies, President Obama has now thrown his support for a plan backed by public safety groups to directly assign the spectrum for a nationwide wireless network that would link first responders. The President’s support virtually ensures that the D Block of spectrum will not be auctioned. The New York Times reports that “senior administration officials” have said the President announced his decision to public safety leaders just before Tuesday’s State of the Union speech. Congress ordered the auction as a way of offsetting the federal deficit, and later the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) also backed an auction as a way of funding a future public safety wireless network. But public safety groups have said assigning the D Block directly to a trustee would be more effective to create an interoperable network for law enforcement, fire and EMS agencies. Several groups that included the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and National Emergency Number Association (NENA) have been lobbying Congress to change the law requiring the auction. This week Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) re-introduced a bill for direct spectrum assignment, and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said he will soon propose similar legislation in the House. Read more about the President’s support here., and information about the President’s wireless initiative here.
Two northern California public safety comm centers were flooded with 911 calls earlier this month, probably from telematics gear registered to an automotive company. The Palo Alto and California Highway Patrol (CHP) centers received the calls from an unsubscribed cellular phone or device, Charles Cullen, technical services director for Palo Alto police. He said dispatchers fielded 566 calls over two hours starting at 8:30 p.m., and all the calls were silent. The four on-duty dispatchers were kept busy handling the calls, but the calls did not disrupt operations. Dispatchers traced the calls to a Verizon account assigned to Continental Automotive Group, which makes in-car information, communications and entertainment systems. Cullen says he requested Verizon to block the electronic serial number (ESN) of the phone or device that made the calls, and he’s now investigating how and why they were made. The CHP received about 1,000 similar calls on Wednesday, Cullen said, also from an unregistered cellular phone. Read more about the 911 calls here., and watch a news video after the break. [click to continue…]
Just a month after Motorola split the company to help prevent slacking cellular handset sales from pulling down the company’s other divisions, the new company that includes radio and non-cellular gear unit reported its revenues increased compared to the same quarter of 2009. The new Motorola Solutions company includes public safety radio radios and pagers, barcode scanners, RFID gear and wireless equipment for a wide variety of industries. Sales for the fourth quarter of 2010 were $2.24 billion, up 13.2% for the same quarter of 2009. The company reported a profit of $279 million for the quarter, up 11.6% from 2009. In a conference call with financial analysts, company officials said government radio sales were up 9% during the quarter, helped by the introduction of the latest Astro-25 system with 50 new features, and the mid-tier APX radio series. Major radio contract wins during the quarter were with the state of Maryland, and with integrator SAIC for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency. Download (pdf) full fourth-quarter financial information here.
The Colorado State Patrol (CSP) admits that the logging recorder at the Montrose regional communications center failed, but there is uncertainty over exactly when it stopped recording 911 and radio transmissions, and how many days or months of information was lost. Sgt. John Hahn told a reporter that technicians are working to determine the recorder’s fail date after a supervisor noticed the problem last November. He said as much as one month of recordings was lost. However, a Dec. 2010 e-mail from comm center officials to the Mesa County district attorney’s office said the logging system had crashed and that, “(We) are unable to provide you with any recordings for the last year.” Read more about the recorder failure here, and download (pdf) a copy of the CSP supplemental budget request for voice recorder maintenance mentioned in the story.
In the first weeks of the new 112th Congress, Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has renewed his effort to assign 700 MHz spectrum directly to public safety instead of auctioning the frequencies as recommended by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Rockefeller has introduced the Public Safety Spectrum and Wireless Innovation Act that would also direct the FCC to develop technical and operational standards for a nationwide wireless network, and lease pre-emptable capacity on the network to government agencies and commercial companies. He introduced similar legislation during the previous session of Congress, but it failed to move to a vote. The proposed legislation would also allow the FCC to conduct so-called “incentive auctions” whereby existing spectrum licensees could voluntarily relinquish their frequencies in exchange for a portion of the proceeds of the commercial auction of their spectrum. Rockefeller says the funds from these auctions would help fund the construction and maintenance of a nationwide public safety network. The International Association of Chiefs of Police issued a statement supporting the legislation, saying it was “absolutely essential to public safety.” Read Rockefeller’s summary of his proposed legislation here.
At today’s open meeting of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), members approved some technical standards for a future wireless broadband network for public safety agencies, and requested additional comments on the network’s architecture, security and other features. The vote is the first step in establishing specific technical standards that will guide development of public safety wireless. In today’s decision, the FCC mandated use of the LTE standard for the wireless network, the same standard many cellular companies will use for consumer communications. The FCC also stayed certain rules proposing a mandatory public-private ownership of the future network. The FCC also asked for comments on a wide range of issues, including how security and reliability would be ensured across the network, providing priority access, coverage requirements, roaming, and equipment certification. Download (pdf) a press release about the FCC’s action, a slideshow about the decision, and the full Order.
An Austin (Tex.) police officer has been fired after he lied to dispatchers that he was handling a report of a suicidal man, and instead drove away to take his lunch break with two fellow officers. The next day police found the man dead in his backyard, the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Keith McCook was an eight-year veteran of APD and, according to an internal investigation, mishandled the Sept. 2010 incident and then lied to investigators when questioned. According to a report issued by police chief Art Acevedo, McCook was assigned to an advice case involving someone APD calls “Mr. X.” McCook took less than three minutes to handle the incident. At the moment he was leaving Mr. X’s house, the man’s wife called a dispatcher from another location, saying she’d received text messages from Mr. X that read like suicide threats. A calltaker entered another incident for “Check Welfare-Urgent,” and two officers were dispatched. McCook heard the radio dispatch, called the comm center supervisor, downgraded the call to “Assist Complaintant,” and cancelled the two responding officers. He then called Mrs. X on his cellular phone, failed to return to Mr. X’s house, and went on a pre-arranged lunch break with two officers. A radio dispatcher noticed on the GPS map display that McCook’s unit did not return to Mr. X’s house, and notified a watch commander, and McCook’s supervisor then ordered him to return to the house and take a report. When McCook arrived, Mr. X didn’t answer the door or his phone. He didn’t walk around the house or investigate the open garage door, but instead left. Relatives found Mr. X’s body the next evening. Download (pdf) the police chief’s report and read the key role that dispatchers played in the incident.
An off-duty Provo (Utah) police officer working overnight security at the Provo Tabernacle mistook an audible alarm for a burglar alarm, creating a 90-minute delay in reporting a fire that destroyed the structure last December. Fire officials now say they’ve ruled out arson and believe the fire started in the attic, where the first fire alarm originated. The officer was providing private security for television production gear at the building for a holiday videotaping, and heard an alarm sounding at 1:10 a.m. He apparently believed that alarm was from a burglar alarm system. He radioed a Provo city dispatcher that the alarm panel showed the activation from the attic. But the officer added that he saw nothing inside, and couldn’t get to the attic to check the space. A Provo dispatcher contacted a TV producer, who contacted the building coordinator, who told the producer the alarm frequently sounded false alarms and should be turned off. The producer called the dispatcher back with the information, and the dispatcher relayed that to the officer. At 1:34 a.m. the officer reported finding the alarm instruction manual, and that he had silenced the alarm system. Provo fire chief Blair Camp said, “During this sequence of events, none of the participants realized or questioned the possibility that this might be a fire alarm and not a security alarm.” Up to this point, no one had ever contacted the fire department, Camp added. At 2:40 a.m. a security guard from a nearby business reported seeing smoke or steam coming from the roof, the officer investigated and found the roof on fire. Fire crews arrived at 2:44 a.m., about one hour and 34 minutes after the first alarm. The building was completely consumed by fire, leaving only the stone walls. Read more about the incident here, along with a CAD print-out and radio traffic.
As part of the final development of its computer-aided dispatch (CAD) software, RadioMobile is offering U.S. comm centers a limited number of slots in a pilot program that would include a full installation at a subsidized cost. Sai Krishnamurthi, head of systems sales for RadioMobile, says the company is already working to install two pilot sites in Oregon, and is looking for three more agencies to participate. He says the company is targeting comm centers with up to five dispatch positions, and who would be willing to provide the necessary hardware and pay certain software and engineering fees. The company hopes to receive feedback from the participating agencies to more finely-tuning the software for the specific needs of public safety. For the technical-minded, the software runs on Windows and is .NET and SQL Server-based. Krishnamurthi says interested agencies can e-mail him for more information about the pilot program. Find more information about RadioMobile at the Web site, and download (pdf) a CAD product sheet here.
A misunderstood permit number relayed from an alarm company to a Denver (Colo.) 911 dispatcher created a potentially dangerous situation—police didn’t respond to the alarm, and the homeowner arrived to check the house with the burglars hiding inside. A local TV station spotlighted the woman’s complaint, and police officials say they are investigating. A city of Denver ordinance (pdf) requires that all monitored alarms have a permit, intended to reduce the number of false alarms and police responses. In this case, the alarm company called the police and correctly gave the calltaker alarm number “332901.” However, the 911 calltaker read back the number as “322901,” and the alarm company dispatcher confirmed the incorrect number. At that point, the dispatcher said the permit number wasn’t on file and, “We will not be dispatching.” The female homeowner was notified by the alarm company, drove to the home, and found nothing amiss inside. But the next day she arrived to find the house ransacked, and she now believes the burglars were hiding inside while she checked the house. The alarm industry estimates it makes 32 million telephone calls a year to PSAPs to report alarms. The Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) has developed a standard for directly transmitting alarms to PSAPs, to reduce telephone calls and improve reporting accuracy. Read more about the Denver incident here.
A collaboration between the U.S. Department of Justice, a child advocacy group and Facebook means that users of the social networking Web site can receive Amber Alerts when a child is reported missing in their state. A visit to the official Amber Alert Web page will display state-by-state listings, and if you “like” one of those states, you’ll begin to receive alerts when they are posted on Facebook. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one of the participants in the program, says the Amber Alert program has help located 525 abducted children during the program’s 15-year history.
A program of almost $1 billion in federal grants for states to create interoperable radio network for public safety operations has already missed one deadline, and has given out only one-third of its money to states, according to an annual audit. In addition, the audit found that several states are having trouble meeting the grant matching requirements of the Public Safety Interoperable Communications Grant Program (PSIC), putting millions of dollars in jeopardy of being lost. The fund is administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), whose auditors said grant matching was a “significant concern,” but who believe close monitoring of the program could bring successful completion by the new deadline—either fiscal 2011 or 2012 depending upon how quickly the money is disbursed. The program was originally scheduled to be complete by last September, but states moved too slowly and the deadline was extended. Download (pdf) the auditors’ report here, and download individual states audits: California, Florida, New York, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Louisiana,