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December 20, 2016

911 technology cuts time for NC dispatchers

By Natalie Stewart
The High Point Enterprise

HIGH POINT, N.C. — New technology is allowing High Point 911 telecommunicators to shave minutes off dispatch time, in turn allowing for a quicker response from police officers and firefighters.

When someone picks up the phone and dials 911, every second matters. And getting police and firefighters on scene more quickly could mean the difference between life and death.

The High Point 911 Communications Center recently installed new technology, which is helping dispatchers work more quickly and efficiently.

Before, when someone called 911, the call first routed to Florida, where it went through a database to determine which call center had jurisdiction over where the call originated, and then it was pushed through to the appropriate call center.

“That happens pretty fast, but there’s a few seconds delay,” said Kyle Thaggard, a High Point 911 dispatcher. “By the time I hear my first ring, the caller may have heard two or three rings. And when you’re desperate for someone to pick up because it could be life or death, those seconds count.”

The new system ditches the traditional landline systems using wires to transmit the calls, and now processes them digitally allowing for faster speeds, and someone picking up the phone sooner.

The new system also allows for High Point 911 call-takers to get police dispatched to an alarm call more quickly.

With the previous system, the alarm would go off at a house or business and notify the alarm company. The company would then call High Point 911, where a dispatcher would have to ask several questions like what’s the address where the alarm is going off, what is the alarm company, who is the operator, what’s the alarm company’s callback number, what activation types is the alarm showing?

During a test call, it took Thaggard a little more than a minute to generate the call, get the information entered into the system and dispatch an officer. Seems, pretty quick. But what if it’s an active home invasion? That minute could make the difference.

With the new system, as soon as the alarm company is notified of the activation, it automatically generates a call in a High Point 911 telecommunicator’s computer-aided dispatch system.

The call pops up on the screen with all of the information already there — type of alarm activation, address, callback number and all of the information the dispatcher needs.

When a test call pops up on Thaggard’s computer screen, he’s able to live chat with the alarm company operator who dispatched the call asking for any additional information he may need. All the while, Thaggard has already dispatched an officer and is adding any additional notes he receives to the computer-aided dispatch system that officers can see on their in-car computers.

“It goes from minutes with the old system to mere seconds,” he said. “This helps us because it doesn’t tie up a phone line for someone who may be trying to get through, and we can get someone out there quicker.”

The new system also is compatible with technology that is in development. Currently, people can text to 911. But in the future, people also will have the ability to send photos and videos to 911.

“So, if you have a suspect or someone outside your home and you’re trying to describe them, you’ll be able to send that,” Thaggard said.

Although technology is advancing and allowing for quicker responses in emergency situations, it’s still important for callers to remember the most important piece of information to get help to them — location, location, location.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Copyright 2016 The High Point Enterprise


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