Lincoln 911 gets face lift

February 18, 2004|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - The sing-song phone number hasn't changed, but 911 dispatchers' methods for providing assistance to Lincoln County callers received a face lift Tuesday afternoon with the help of a $96 million homeland safety program.

An updated computer system was installed and brought on line in the Main Street emergency dispatch center, complete with thin, flat-screen monitors, new mapping technology, and a more streamlined program menu that will keep window clutter to a minimum.

"It's just an upgrade. The system we're using now is version 4.0, and the system were getting is version 5.6," said Jeff Crowe, director of emergency communication.

The computer aided dispatch system was purchased from a North Carolina company, InterAct Public Safety Systems, and the program funds were managed by state police and Center for Rural Development. Funding was through the Law Enforcement Technology program that provides local law and emergency response agencies in the 911 Center's service area with $96 million for much-needed updates.


"Forty-two counties have become eligible for these updates," said Crowe. "Also, they are doing the police cars too, putting laptops in the cruisers. What the police officer can do, he can access NCIC (National Crime Information Center) right from his car," he said. NCIC, which allows officials to check someone's name against current outstanding warrants, is not available at the 911 center yet, but Crowe said he plans on remedying that in the future after the equipment upgrade.

"The LET program was designed to not only provide the greatest benefit to law enforcement agencies and the citizens they serve, but also to ensure compatibility and connectivity across the entire region. The program breaks down geographic barriers and also facilitates the sharing of critical, time-sensitive information across county lines and jurisdictions," said Lonnie Lawson, executive director of the center, in a press release.

Tuesday's upgrade brings with it a digital mapping system that will pinpoint the origin of each call received. Under version 4.0, the telephone company provided a written address under each number as it appeared on the screen. Major location questions would prompt dispatchers to walk over to a large wall map for study.

"This will show us on the (computer) map where the calls are being made from. Also, when we send a fire truck or EMS, it shows exactly where they will be located," said Crowe.

The location of a call was occasionally suspect

Under the 4.0 system, the location of a call was occasionally suspect. When a road was build or its name changed the former system would not always list the correct addresses with a call. Crowe said U.S. 150 was a good example. "Part is old 150, it's Crab Orchard Road, it's 78, it's John Simms Highway. So hopefully we'll get that all ironed out."

Crowe said the new system is updated with information each week, becoming more inclusive as it is used. "This will download more mapping data as it becomes available."

System version 5.6 also brings with it a simplified, and much larger, operating window. The two black monitors have been connected to work in tandem with a single mouse. If the left screen is too crowded, several open windows can be drug across the left screen onto the right one.

To simplify the window menu, the updated system will only show dispatchers who is available to send in response to a call, such as only police officers on duty at that time. "They won't have to go to so many windows," said Ron England, system trainer.

The eight employees at Lincoln 911 have finished their basic training sessions on the computers, but England will be on hand for the week to troubleshoot.

"He did a great job, and we feel comfortable with what we are doing," said Crowe. "...We're very excited about it. It makes us feel important, whether we are or not."

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