Pike County E-911 plans upgrades

Published 11:00 pm Monday, January 13, 2014

Pike County’s Emergency 911 service is in the midst of an overhaul that will one day allow it to accept text messages, photos and videos.

Emergency 911 Director Chris Dozier said the county purchased a 911 phone system that would answer every emergency call in the county and improve the reliability, redundancy and connectivity of the service. He compared the old service to a decades-old dial-up service.

“Remember the old dial-ups and how slow they were? They were 56 kbs. Our old system was nine kbs,” Dozier said. “Not that I’m knocking the service. It worked, but it definitely would not have been efficient for what we’re trying to do now.”

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Dozier listed two scenarios that would be improved by adding the capabilities.

“One is for the hearing-impaired. They will not need any special equipment. All they’ve got to do is have a cell phone,” he said. “Then two: if somebody does not feel safe speaking on a phone during an emergency, say they are hiding in a closet, they can have the phone on silent then communicate with text messages.”

Texting to the emergency line is still years away from countywide applications. The system has been purchased but still needs to be tested and fine-tuned.

One issue is teaching operators to accurately translate texting shorthand. Also, Dozier said there was no way of determining between an emergency message and the typical message someone would send so that cell carriers would not delay sending the message to emergency 911.

Dozier hoped to see 911 texts earmarked in some way so that the occasional delays people experience in receiving the messages would not happen during an emergency.

Emergency 911 recently issued a request for bids on a new computer-aided dispatch of 911 map displays.

“This will be what the dispatchers use to log everything that occurs in 911 system it’s everything that has to do with emergency situations,” Dozier said.

Emergency 911 is in the process of setting up a server-based map system that will allow Troy, Brundidge and Pike County to share data and ensure that every address in the system is accurate. Each municipality pitched in for a $10,000 web-based service that allows them to edit and locate any address in the county.

The fire department is currently testing map system.

“It’s what our trucks are using now and you know exactly where you’re going,” said Troy Fire Chief Thomas Outlaw.

Dozier said once city and county employees were trained on the system, the public would be able to access and use the mapping system, too.