Ray County 911 preparing for the next generation of emergency service

Technological advances are constantly putting 911 systems behind and in a catch up mode, but Ray County 911 is preparing.
At the County 911 monthly board meeting last week, Director Scott Enss presented board members with a new voice recorder contract that he urged board members to review for next year. The new contract would be more expensive but would save money in other areas such as storage, according to Enss. He said the current system requires spending almost $50 a month on DVDs. He said the new system storage will be less expensive and the back-up hard drive would need to be replaced only every two years. Enss said the back-up drive is made to be resistant to power surges and other issues that could delete data.
Enss said the new system would have the capabilities to record any type of data, including e-mail and text messaging.
“We need to look into this because of where the next generation of 911 is going,” Enss told board members last week. “I think it’s an area we need to start looking at this year.”
Board member Norm Hemmerling, former Lawson Police Chief, said he wishes the opportunity had presented itself when they were forming this year’s budget.
“It’s difficult when we’re starting out with a new budget,” he said. “I’d have liked to known about this thing in August.”
Hemmerling agreed with Enss that technology is changing and something needs to be done. Other board members instructed Enss to seek out references from other agencies using the technology.
Enss said currently the Mid America Regional Council is testing text-messaging capabilities in their system and said the technology may be here next year.
In a recently released assessment of the County 911 system, State Information Security Director R.D. Porter outlined some of the future for 911. He said the United States Congress is currently working on the next generation of 911 systems.
“The system of the near future will provide the ability to send calls and data from any device to any location at any time,” Porter says in the report.
Porter goes on to to say the new technology will cost more for the answering points, and all entities will have to look at total cost per call and figure out what is best for the citizens.
The report says Ray County 911 took in more than 11,500 calls at a cost of $11.67 per call. Porter said the cost is in line with the national average.
Furthermore, Porter says that having multiple 911 jurisdictions in the same area will not be cost effective for citizens of the area.
“There is no doubt that with the technology that will be available, the financial justification for multiple 911 centers serving the same geographic areas will be difficult to support,” Porter says in the report.
Porter pointed to the last 911 study conducted in Missouri, by L. Robert Kimball and Associates, found to be more economical and more efficient whether large or small.
Currently the city of Richmond operates their own 911-dispatch center after breaking away from the county three years ago because Police Chief Terri McWilliams told the City Council at that time she could do the services cheaper.
McWilliams has yet to release the city’s 911 assessment, also performed by Porter. At the regular Richmond City Council meeting on Wednesday night, Mayor Lance Green said McWilliams would have a presentation about the report at the next council meeting scheduled for Feb. 11.
He also said at a meeting last June, the report would be released to the public.

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