E-911 system continues to improve service

Thursday, July 31, 2008
Barry County's E-911 Operations Center is now fully staffed by 14 dispatchers, who have each received around 100 hours of dispatching and emergency medical training. At least three E-911 dispatchers are on duty at the operations center at all times. Pictured above, is Rhonda Divine. Democrat Photo

Although Barry County's enhanced 911 (E-911) system is not flawless, over the last year, the new county-wide emergency system has made major progress in improving local emergency services.

"We completed the building, and we are fully staffed," said Pat Leighter, Barry County E-911 director. "We have been very lucky that so many qualified individuals have wanted to work here."

Barry County's E-911 system now employs over a dozen individuals including 14 dispatchers. At least three E-911 dispatchers are on duty at the Barry County Operations Center at all times.

"The dispatchers receive 40 hours of basic dispatching training, which is mandated by the state of Missouri," said Leighter. "They also receive 40 hours of computer training that is conducted by the Missouri State Highway Patrol."

In addition, Leighter requires all dispatchers to complete 24 hours of medical dispatching training.

"This teaches them things that can help the caller until an ambulance arrives," said Leighter. "Most of our residences are rural, so it can sometimes be a while before an ambulance gets to them."

Dispatchers will also be able to help emergency services find a caller's location using the E-911 system, which was fully implemented in March. When a call comes into the E-911 system, the dispatcher will have immediate access to the caller's name, phone number and address and a digital map that pinpoints the caller's location.

This summer, Barry County's E-911 system was further enhanced with the implementation of reverse E-911, which could be used to warn residents about severe weather or other emergencies.

"Reverse 911 allows me to create a call list and call a group of residents with a pre-recorded message," said Leighter.

Within the next year, Leighter hopes to implement two phases of wireless coverage, which will allow the E-911 system to plot the location of a cellular phone.

"This will give us the latitude and longitude of the cell phone's location," said Leighter. "We will be able to pinpoint your location even if you are in a boat on the water."

New software will also be implemented to help plot locations for voiceover IP programs.

Although local emergency services have been improved by the implementation of the county-wide E-911 system, some residents have experienced mail issues caused by incorrect E-911 addresses.

"Some of our residents have received new addresses that have the correct numerics but the wrong city," said Leighter. "For instance, some addresses have said Cassville when they should be Eagle Rock."

When reviewing the process involved in assigning a new address and developing the E-911 address database, it is easy to see why the system is not completely flawless.

According to a flow chart developed by Barry County E-911 GIS technician Mike Phillips, GPS addresses are first used to update the records and maps at the dispatch center. Then the information is sent to local telephone companies and Address Management Systems (AMS), which has a contract with the U.S. Postal System to manage and update that system.

While the master telephone and address databases are being updated, the resident is notified of their new address, which can be shared with personnel at their local post office. The mail carrier can then provide updated information to AMS, which is responsible for updating the master postal database and mailing lists.

After all of these steps are completed, AMS makes the mailing list available to third parties.

Currently, only one-tenth of 1 percent of Barry County's 22,000 addresses have been identified as being incorrect, said Leighter, who is working with Phillips to correct the incorrect addresses as quickly as possible.

Individuals who discover discrepancies with their mailing address are encouraged to call 846-4911. Leighter can be reached at extension 223, and Phillips' extension is 222.

In addition to the incorrect address notifications she has received, Leighter has been fielding complaints regarding road name change requests, which will be addressed at a later date.

"The most important thing right now is to get the addresses correct," said Leighter. "Road name changes will be made after all of the addresses are right."

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