On 1/5/11 majority of the Bates County Office holders and representatives from the City of Butler met at the courthouse to discuss providing Enhanced 911 to the citizens of rural Bates County and upgrading the City of Butler’s current 911 equipment. Three issues were brought out during the meeting.
The first issue discussed was the increased volume of emergency calls the Sheriff’s Office receives. Currently when someone in the County dials 911, the calls are forwarded to the administrative lines and there is no way to know if it’s a 911 call or a regular call. The Sheriff pointed out that if someone calls in and doesn’t know their location, the responding emergency personnel search for the proverbial needle in the hay stack. This is also the case if someone calls 911 and cannot communicate verbally; there is no way to know where the call came from without Enhanced 911. Adding enhanced 911 would allow for the system to capture the location the call is made from and forward that information to the needed services. This system also includes locating the 911 calls that are made from cell phones. In the event that a farmer is injured in the field he can call 911 and the system would secure his GPS location and that location would be auto-populated and his location dispatch to emergency service personnel. This improves response time for fire services, ambulance services and law enforcement services. Currently the Sheriff’s Office is averaging 600 calls for service a month and of those calls the Sheriff projects that at least 40 would have utilized the E911 system if it was in place.
The second issue discussed was the need for the City of Butler to upgrade their antiquated 911 system. Chief Garnett first began working on replacing his system in early 2010 when the phone company advised him that there were no parts available to repair his system when it fails. The City’s 911 system was purchased around 15 years ago and the City has provided E911 to the citizens that live within the city limits without a tax to fund it.
The Third issue was how Enhanced 911 would be funded. Sheriff Anderson and Chief Garnett have been researching the possibility of purchasing equipment that would serve both the County’s needs and the City of Butler’s needs. They presented a case that showed by teaming together (city and county) and purchasing a system together there would be substantial savings versus purchasing separately.
While all the office holders and city officials in attendance agreed that E911 was a benefit and needed throughout the county, the discussion turned to how the system would be funded. It was proposed that Bates County’s portion of the hardware and software would be purchased out of existing funds from general revenue and the yearly database maintenance expenses would be maintained from the existing Law Enforcement Funds. This would mean that all county residence would be provided Enhanced 911 without the need for additional taxes.
Sheriff Anderson states that his research shows that 911 first became available in the United Stated in 1968 after a push from the United Association of Fire Chiefs, Presidents Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice. Since then generations of people have been raised on the theory that if you need help in an emergency then you just dial 9-1-1. The research also shows that 96% of the United States has Enhanced 911, which automatically gives dispatch the caller’s location.
Sheriff Anderson also pointed out that in 2009 the Sheriff’s Office joined together with four other counties to receive a grant to upgrade the reporting system for the Sheriff’s Office. With that grant each patrol vehicle in his fleet was equipped with a laptop computer with Global Positioning Systems. This system was designed to be integrated with a E911 system so that when the dispatch receives a call on 911 it auto-populates the call to the system and then pin-points that emergency call on the Deputy’s in car computer. This allows the Deputy to pull up the call and see it on a map so he can find the shortest route possible to respond to the call. The system also helps with resource allocation. When a 911 call comes in and the system pin points that call on the map then dispatchers can see the location of the Deputies and send the closest unit to the call, improving the response time for a call for help.
Sheriff Anderson says “I am excited to see all the Elected County Officials come together and work diligently to improve the quality of life for our Citizens and to be able to offer better life saving services to the citizens without asking for any additional taxes. I feel this is why the citizens have elected us to be their voice in government.”
While major steps have been taken to move forward to bring Bates County Enhanced 911 there are many things that still need to be taken care of. No definitive decision was made at the meeting but a goal was set to move to the next stage of planning for this project. This project if supported by the public may take up to a year to have in place and implemented.