(Posted Oct. 29, 2014)
Dialing 9-1-1 in an emergency from anywhere in Madison County directly connects the caller to the Madison County Sheriff’s Office Communications Center in London where dispatchers operate three state-of-the-art digital computer consoles and take and process calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
“It’s a system that we constantly update,” said Sheriff Jim Sabin. “We are the central point for all 9-1-1 calls in the county. The system has proven its value to the community time and again.”
Madison County’s 9-1-1 digital system debuted in 1991, and has been funded by a 0.8-mill levy ever since. The renewal levy request appears on the Nov. 4 ballot and is not a tax increase. The levy costs $18.99 a year on a home valued at $100,000.
The levy annually generates approximately $602,000 which goes to maintaining and updating the equipment, software, 9-1-1 lines and cellular mapping of the county’s 467 square miles.
Utilizing mapping software that instantaneously and exactly pinpoints a caller’s location anywhere in the county, the communications center handles dispatching for all fire and EMS agencies in the county.
Of the 76,548 total incoming calls handled by the center last year, 14,246 were 9-1-1 calls. Thus far in 2014, the center has taken 11,054 9-1-1 calls with 1,250 in September.
“In an emergency situation, seconds count,” said Sabin. “Our 9-1-1 system eliminates any guesswork in what is usually an extremely stressful situation for the caller.”
The system links the call to a road view of the caller’s location providing the dispatcher a visual picture of the caller’s house or structure, the address, crossroads near the location, the caller’s telephone number, and landscape features.
It also allows dispatchers to provide responders with a history of calls to a location. That history could include domestic problems, cardiac conditions, diabetic episodes, patient lift assists, asthma attacks, gas leaks, chemical spills or patterns of criminal activity in an area.
“Responders know in advance what they’re walking into,” Sabin said. “They are better prepared.”
Using this information, the dispatcher contacts the appropriate responders with a voice message and a text message. It’s a process that is done in seconds as the alert tone sounds in the station.
“We provide information quickly so that responders are not only on their way that much sooner,” Sabin continued, “but also have vital information so that, once on the scene, they are in the best position possible to deal with what could be a life or death situation.”
“All the technology in the world is at our fingertips,” said Matt McCann, 9-1-1 coordinator and communications specialist in the sheriff’s office, motioning to the three computer consoles in the communications center. “Every time somebody calls, we have access to 30,000 names, places and businesses. Within five seconds of the call, we can talk and text the information to the proper responder.”
The consoles also record data and voice transmissions.
“We can play back a call instantly as a doublecheck,” McCann said.
Sabin noted that 9-1-1 calls are increasing every year.
“Imagine the risk to public safety without the system we now have,” he said. “At one time, we had no way of knowing where the call came from. Technology has dramatically improved our 9-1-1 capabilities over the last 23 years.”