Enhanced 911 system nearly ready

Thursday, November 13, 2003

By taking their time and doing lots of study, the emergency personnel and elected leaders of McCook and Red Willow County are developing one of the best Enhanced 911 systems in Nebraska.

That's the opinion of Ike Brown, McCook's police chief, who is serving as the E-911 systems administrator for Red Willow County. After working on the project for more than 16 months, Chief Brown and other task force members are getting very close to the county-wide E-911 launch. "The equipment is due to arrive in the next few weeks -- in late November or early December -- which should make it possible to be on line with Enhanced 911 by January," Brown said.

So what is the Enhanced 911 system? It is a method by which to determine the exact location of 911 calls no matter where they occur in the county.

To accomplish this, the Red Willow County E-911 task force has a budget of $403,000, made possible through a telephone surcharge.

With that money, the Red Willow E-911 program has acquired what members regard as the state-of-the-art system: a Rescue Star number and location controller and a Sentinel 911 watch system. Tied in with a Global Positioning System, the controller and watch system are able to exactly pinpoint the location of land-based 911 calls.

That is possible because of the second part of the Red Willow County E-911 system: namely, a new, county-wide road and farmstead numbering system. Under this program, every rural location will have a specific road and place number. Roads in one direction will be numbered in the 300s and 400s, while those going the other way will have numbers in the 700s. There will also be a five-digit number for each rural location.

As an example of the numbering system, a rural Bartley address could be 72252 Road 403. Armed with this address, dispatchers will be able to send fire trucks, ambulances and law enforcement personnel to the precise location from which the call comes.

It's a very high-tech procedure. Maps will flash on the computer screen, directing emergency workers to the place where the 911 call originated. At the beginning, the system will work only with land-based phones, but soon Chief Brown says E-911 will be able to pinpoint cell calls as well. "We're working with the wireless people on that," he said.

Over the years, emergency workers have come to realize how important good directions are. "We get 911 calls from children and visitors who don't know how to get to where they are," Brown said. "E-911 will help the situation tremendously."

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