'Lee County can expect us to provide optimum emergency services through our 911 center to compare with anyone around us.'
(TNS) - Emergency services in Lee County, Ga., are expected to be greatly improved in the near future as the County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday night to purchase a new telephone answering system and computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system that will make enhanced 911 (E911) a reality.
In a presentation before the commission, interim Public Safety Director Wesley Wells explained that the purchase of the new equipment would provide county residents with a “next-gen” system that would allow public safety personnel from the fire department, EMS, police department and sheriff’s office to more effectively and efficiently respond to emergency calls throughout the county.
“Lee County can expect us to provide optimum emergency services through our 911 center to compare with anyone around us,” Wells said. “This is a next-gen, state-of-the-art system. This puts us where we should be, what all the citizens expect from us for 911.”
The first component of the new 911 system is the Motorola Emergency Call Works system that will help 911 center dispatchers to pinpoint the location of the person making the call and quickly input that information into the CAD system.
“Citizens can pick up their phone, whether it be their home phone or mobile phone, and when they dial 911, this is going to assist in locating them and telling us exactly where they are and will transfer all of their pertinent personal information into our system to generate a CAD for service,” said Wells. “It allows us to know who’s calling, and where they’re calling from.”
“This a locate system,” Commissioner Luke Singletary said. “If you’re riding your bike down (Highway) 195 and have a bike wreck and have to call 911, they can find you at mile marker seven based on your cell phone location.”
Commissioner Billy Mathis, offered a real world example of how important the locate technology is to the community by offering commentary on how the lack of this technology impacted recent emergency situations.
“It’s needed,” said Mathis. “We don’t have the proper equipment to find somebody that’s in need that calls from a cell phone. The way that the county is configured (and) with all the outdoor sports, hunting, fishing, kayaking, boating, all those kinds of things, people rely on their cell phones.
“We’ve already had a couple of incidences (where location was needed). We had a deer hunter who fell and broke his leg, and he could see the ambulance, but they couldn’t find him. So it’s just needed.”
With the ability to locate the emergency caller in place, the 911 center can take advantage of the second equipment upgrade — the CAD system. According to Wells, once the initial call information comes in, it is populated to the CAD system, which allows the dispatcher to more effectively respond to the emergency call.
“This component system actually draws in the information when the call is received and that information is transferred into CAD and the CAD then places everything and will identify the needed equipment that will respond,” Wells explained. “This system, through AVL (automatic vehicle locator) monitoring, will located the closest vehicle to a particular call. The AVL constantly shows where vehicles are (and) tells (dispatchers), based on the area, which stations are the first response stations for that call.
“The CAD system will (also) show the dispatcher, based on the call, how many fire trucks are needed, or the different types of emergency responses and different apparatus that are needed. Basically, it tells the dispatcher what type of response is needed and what is needed to respond.”
In response to questions from Commission Chairman Dennis Roland, Wells said that in addition to the system being a vast improvement over what the county currently has, it is fully upgradable, meaning that the county likely won’t have to purchase a new system for some time.
“These new systems are designed on a software-based compatibility,” he said. “Therefore once we have our systems in place, our computers in place, these are upgraded through software. So, just like your cell phones update periodically, this system will update primarily the same way and they will stay up to date.
“That’s why we’ve made the choices that we have so these system can be upgraded and move with us other than dilapidate. It’s a constant upgrade as you go forward. These systems are intended to operate as they are for eight to 10 years.”
The total cost of purchasing the component system is approximately $413,838 — $248,206 for the Motorola telephone answering system, $145,632 for the Southern Software CAD system and $20,000 in additional support equipment, such as computer servers, to upgrade the 911 center.
Although Wells’ proposal contained a financing option to obtain the equipment, Commissioner Bill Williams, suggested the county purchase the system using SPLOST funds set aside specifically for public safety.
“I’d like to point out that they’ve got a finance option in here, but the rate’s like 4 percent and I’d prefer if we’re going to do this thing, to pay cash for it from SPLOST,” Williams said. “We’ve got the money to do that.”
“The nature of our community, I mean we need this system,” Mathis said as he made the motion to purchase. “We have people in the woods. We have people on the creeks. We have a lot of people doing outdoor activities that we need to be able to find when they have a problem.”
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