MOUNT VERNON — A new 911 phone software system with technology upgrades, installed Nov. 14, is functioning very well, said Knox County 911 Operations Manager Laura Webster.
Webster gave a brief presentation Thursday on the 911 system to county commissioners. It came through a purchase of $212,485 from Central Square Technologies and offers high-tech “next generation” features. Some of its advancements are those the county is moving toward implementing but not quite ready. One such example is when cell phones users will be able to text to 911.
“We’re still kind of sitting back and waiting to see if there might be some funding available from the state,” said Webster, who has been with the county’s 911 service for 23 years, the past year spent as operations director. She was also operations manager for two years.
The county is served by two IT professionals from Info-Link Technologies, Inc., of Knox County, who are stationed at the Knox County Service Center. They worked with Central Square Technologies to coordinate the new phone system. For about 90 minutes, the county’s 911 system had to be switched over to Morrow County until the new system was fully functional.
Addressing another advancement with the new 911 system, she offered, “So if we get a 911 call at the center where someone hangs up before we answer, this system will automatically send a text out to that person, stating ‘You dialed 911, do you have an emergency? (If not) Type “No.’” If they type “Yes,” then we will attempt to call them back.”
Like the old system, the new system is able to quickly map the location of the caller, and to send the caller’s number to through the county’s Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. The new 911 system also contains the ability to automatically attach notes to a phone number, Webster said. This could help locate, as one example, an elderly person with memory issues, even before the caller’s number is mapped.
“I’m hoping we can have a new CAD system next year, That’s where we put all of our (911) calls in and it has what officers are on that call, or what medic or (emergency medical) is engine is going to that call.” The Zuercher CAD interfaces with their 911 phone system easily, she added.
The Zuercher 911 system replaces an approximately 10-year-old system that came from Century Link, Webster said. The county received bids from several firms. The county maintains two backup stations at the Knox County Sheriff’s Office in Emergency Operations Center radio room, part of the county Emergency Management Agency, should any part of the 911 system not work.
The county also switched over to the state’s MARCS radio system for emergency responders almost two years ago, Webster said. The main radio tower, located at the sheriff’s office, still contains VHF equipment no longer needed. The cost of removing that equipment will be about $20,000, with the county paying half and the state paying the other half, County Administrator Jason Booth informed commissioners.
The county 911 system has 18 full-time dispatchers and four who are part-time, with years of service ranging from 2.5 to 25, Webster said. They work out of the lower floor of the Knox County Service Center.