If county commissioners approve the change this month, the 911 system upgrade could be installed by November. But officials expect that the new feature would not be ready for public use until mid-spring.
(TNS) — Within a year, Stark County residents should be able to text 911 for help from police, fire or emergency medical services.
Tim Warstler, director of the Stark County Emergency Management Agency, briefed the Stark County commissioners Tuesday on the planned $826,192 upgrade of the county's 911 system.
Warstler said the next-generation 911 system provided by AT&T is called VESTA. It will replace the county's Patriot System, which the county launched in 2011.
If the commissioners approve the change this month, Warstler said, the upgrade could be installed by November. But approval by an entity overseen by telephone companies known as the Text Control Center would be required for 911 texting to be implemented. He expects that feature would not be ready until mid-spring.
Users would just tap 911 when designating a recipient for their text message on their phone.
The new system will be less prone to going down as it will route 911 calls and texts to Stark County and Canton dispatchers through AT&T-operated centers at Kent via Akron or Dublin via Indianapolis, Warstler said.
Warstler said the current system routes calls through equipment at the Stark County Sheriff's Office.
He can recall at least two outages the past five years where the 911 system went down for hours, and it took AT&T about an hour to send a technician to the sheriff to fix the issue.
With the new system, if any part of the network goes down, 911 calls would be routed through another location. Plus, technicians are based at the centers in Dublin and Akron 24 hours a day and could more quickly restore the parts of the network that go down, Warstler said.
"Can 911 still go down when this is all done? I don't believe for a minute we're bulletproof, but we'll be better than we were," Warstler said after the meeting.
Warstler said Portage County, Mahoning County and the city of New Franklin use VESTA, which would work separately from Stark County's Carbyne 911 software. Carbyne, which went live in August, allows dispatchers to more narrowly pinpoint a caller's location and allows the caller to grant a dispatcher access to their smartphone camera.
Warstler said a $250,000 federal grant will help cover the cost, with the rest coming from about $6.4 million 911 levy fund and the 911 wireless fund, which is funded by an assessment on wireless users' cellphone bills.
Warstler said state law requires counties to get 911 service through the largest telephone service provider in the state, which is AT&T.
Commissioners indicated that they did not oppose the upgrade. And the matter is expected to come up for a vote next week.
©2020 The Repository, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
Looking for the latest gov tech news as it happens? Subscribe to GT newsletters.