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County’s 911 upgrades increase data gathering
May 06, 2016 Jerry Purvis   

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Scotts Bluff County continues to get ready to meet the 2020 federal deadline for “next generation” 911 service.

County Communications Director Ray Richards told the county board his department is ready to meet the deadline.

The upgrades would allow for advanced data gathering from vehicles, such as currently available thought companies such as OnStar from General Motors.

In the event of a vehicle crash, the system would record nature of the crash, speed and direction, whether seat belts were in use, and other pertinent data.

“The traditional legacy of 911 came about in 1968,” Richards told the board. “That’s going away. The master street address guild is going away, along with the selective router system for handling incoming calls.”

Richards said the entire system is heading toward internet protocol calls. That also will affect the surcharge formula on 911 services, which is based on the number of calls that come through the routers.

The communications center also upgrades security measures at its two tower sites near Mitchell and Minatare. Richards said they will install remote equipment to tell when the gate is open; whether the generators are running; and other environmental factors such as equipment overheating.

Richards also said he’s working with Emergency Management on a schedule to test the county’s tornado sirens on a monthly basis. “Scottsbluff, Gering and Terrytown don’t have a formal schedule for testing,” he said. “We currently test them during Severe Weather Awareness Week, call it good and wait for the storms.”

He said that with monthly testing, any malfunctioning sirens can be identified and repaired quickly. The tentative date for siren testing is the second Wednesday of the month at 10 a.m., when sirens will blow for one minute.

Richards explained that outdoor sirens are for just that – outdoors. “If you’re in the house doing whatever, you might not hear the sirens. They’re designed to warn people who are outdoors.”

The county communications center is also considering offering some services to Box Butte County.

The Alliance Police Department had contacted them about providing dispatching services on nights, weekends and holidays.

Richards said that in addition to all the paperwork, it will take some additional technology to allow them to share frequencies, plus getting permission from the Federal Communications Commission. While there is interest, it will be sometime in the future before that service can be implemented.
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