Public Meetings Bring Out 911 Appeals and Questions
Posted on Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
SOS for 911: Love County dispatcher Billy Bob Ball appealed for a Yes vote for enhanced 911 services at a public meeting at Turner School. The countywide election is Dec. 8.
An emergency dispatcher and a county sheriff made moving appeals for enhanced 911 at recent public meetings held to explain the election issue to Love County voters.
The final public meetings, both beginning at 7 p.m., will take place at Enville Community Building on Monday, Nov. 30, and Marietta School Cafeteria on Thursday, Dec. 3.
The election will be held on Dec. 8. Voters will be asked to approve telephone service fees to pay for upgrading Love County from Basic 911 to E911.
The fees will be $.050 per month on cell phone owners and about $2.50 per month (15% of the basic local service connection rate) on landline phone owners in Love County.
The monthly fees will be collected by the phone companies and routed to the county’s E911 account. Collections would begin with 45-60 days following the election.
They will be used for mapping and addressing, equipment purchases, and operational expenses for the new system, which is expected to take up to three years to fully install.
Love County is currently one of only 17 Oklahoma counties without enhanced 911 capabilities within its boundaries.
Billy Bob Ball, a nine-year dispatcher with Love County 911, told the audience at Turner School last Thursday of feeling “helpless” when calls come in and callers are unable to state their location or driving directions, as is currently required under the Basic 911 system.
Even on the Interstate, it is commonplace for callers to have no idea of their mile marker location. He said responders spent 30 minutes recently searching the south end of the county for a 911 caller who could remember only passing a casino on I-35.
The search continued and, in the end, the caller was found, in need of medical assistance, 15 miles away at the north end of the county.
Ball, who normally works nights, said he ends many shifts feeling “wrung out” from the stress of response delays “I know could be eliminated with E911.”
E911 equipment, when fully installed, will automatically display the name, telephone number, and 911 address of landline callers, and the GPS latitude and longitude coordinates of cell phone callers.
“Ladies and gentlemen, E911 is important to me and you and to the safety of this county,” Ball said.
The highlight of the Greenville public meeting on Nov. 17 was the unexpected appearance of Sheriff Michael Bryant and E911 Planning Committee member Mike Faulkner of Jefferson County.
Sheriff Bryant shared the experience that caused them to initiate a drive for their county’s own E911 election in 2010: A young child called 911 and told the dispatcher, “Daddy is beating Mommy.” The child then dropped the phone and was overheard saying, “No, Daddy, no!”
For the next 53 minutes, Bryant said, the line remained open while deputies listened to the sounds of struggle and pain. Meanwhile, they contacted multiple telephone companies for help on a possible trace.
Bryant said they never learned the source of the call or were able to send assistance. Bryant said all he could do was check hospital and death records for the next few days to learn whether a woman and/or child had perished.
“To this day, I don’t know who made the call,” Bryant said.
What’s the Meaning of the Regional Emergency 911 Services Act?
At the Turner School meeting, Ronnie Freeman, E911 coordinator for AT&T, offered insight into the scope and meaning of SB 1166, the Regional Emergency 911 Services Act signed into law by Gov. Brad Henry on May 22.
Freeman, who also serves on the Statewide 911 Advisory Board, said the gist of the law is that any county that has not passed E911 fees and begun the process of implementation by the end of 2012 will be assigned to a region made up of one or more counties that have enhanced 911.
The incoming county will be required to obtain E911 services from the region and will be assessed service fees.
Freeman advised, “To retain the most control over E911 services, Love County should pass service fees now and get started.”
Will E911 Mean Better Reception for Cell Phones?
Freeman explained that the quality of cell phone reception is tied to the number of cell phone towers, which in turn is based on the number of customers in the area.
It was noted that Oklahoma leads the nation in the rate at which telephone users are abandoning landlines in favor of cell phones. This suggests that the volume of Love County customers will increase even further in the three years it will take to fully roll out E911.
But E911 by itself does not add cell phone towers. In Phase I of wireless installation, E911 will triangulate the location of a cell phone call among the nearest three towers. In Phase II, it will pinpoint the actual GPS latitude/longitude of the cell phone.
Lower Insurance Rates?
Freeman predicted insurance ratings will improve with E911 as response time to fire and medical emergencies improves.
Benefits of Having an Address
“I’m begging for an address. No one knows where I live,” one questioner began.
Freeman pointed out the frequency with which insurance companies, cable companies, utility companies, and of course, package delivery services, are insisting that the customer provide a “911 address” in order to receive service.
The 911 address, he explained, means a physical location assigned through E911 for the primary purpose of emergency response and the secondary purpose of delivering mail and home-based services, such as Fedex or UPS.
The location must be a house number and street name. In the initial phase of E911, expected to take up to two years, all unnamed streets and roads in the county will receive names, and structures will be numbered.
For the first time, county residents will have the benefits of street addresses. Most important, for emergency purposes, they will be instantly locatable.