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E911: Low response

a problem

By BETH LAKEY

Staff Writer

More than three years ago, Pike County residents voted to implement a system to provide faster response from authorities in the event of an emergency. But a lack of response by those same Pike County residents is slowing the process.

Pike County Communications District Director Jan Dismukes said the Enhanced 911

service is supposed to be up and running in November 2002, but a low response rate is slowing the process.

"It would have moved a lot faster if (residents) had done what we asked them to do," Dismukes said.

MSAG Data Consultants Inc. of Orange, Va., began field verification on June 27 by distributing packets that ask for much-needed addressing information. That task was completed in August, but less than half of the county residents have returned the forms.

"We only had a 46 percent response rate," Dismukes said, adding that nearly 80 percent of those registered to vote in November 1998 approved endorsed the project.

"From our point of view, it’s disappointing," said Johnny Gibson, secretary of the E911 board. "This is something the people of Pike County voted for, overwhelmingly, and they did not respond."

Now, surveyors will have to contact the 54 percent of county residents who have not responded in an effort to map their residences.

"It is moving forward, but slowly," Dismukes said. "It’s not a fast process."

The "big holdup" is the addressing process, which is the cornerstone of the E911 service, which can alert dispatchers to a caller’s address through a computerized mapping process. The service is designed to provide more accurate information for emergency response personnel, from firefighters to law enforcement officials, who will be dispatched from a central location.

The service already is in place within Troy and Brundidge city limits. The vote three years ago endorsed the expansion of the service to county residents.

"We’re having to go door-to-door because of the low response," Dismukes said.

She also acknowledged some residents outside the city limits have not received information packets, although questionnaires asking for necessary information have been delivered. MSAG is supposed to distribute the packets to those residents they missed the first time.

The mapping plan involves dividing the county into seven districts, using highways as the dividing lines. Each of those sections will be numbered and the three-digit county road numbers will correspond. For example,

roadways in the third district would be renumbered beginning with 300.

Dismukes said the original plan was not to renumber roads in Goshen and Banks, but upon further evaluation, the E911 board found it would be better to go ahead and make those changes.

Information compiled by MSAG and local officials will eventually be sent to the post office so mail will be delivered to the correct address once the process is complete, Dismukes said.

Meanwhile, residents and businesses are continuing to be charged the monthly surcharge for the service ­ 81 cents for residences; $1.89 for businesses. Dismukes said that surcharge will pay for the equipment needed to set up the E911 system.

Dismukes said she does not have an actual cost for the equipment because it has not been bid. That process should begin after the first of the year.