Cape working on updating 911 service

Tuesday, April 1, 2003

In a few months, Cape Girardeau emergency dispatchers will be able to track a 911 caller to a specific longitude and latitude -- even if the caller is using a cell phone and does not know where he or she is.

On Monday, the Cape Girardeau County Commission authorized $4,800 be paid to the city of Cape Girardeau to assist with mapping efforts to upgrade the city's 911 service. The county emergency operations center oversees all the 911 service in the county, even though Cape Girardeau and Jackson have their own city-paid dispatchers.

The city and the commission are working together on a small but important step in elevating Cape Girardeau to Phase II 911 service, which is the ability to track 911 cellular calls to an exact location. Phase I allows dispatchers to track a signal to the nearest tower.

Currently, the city's service is not even at the Phase I level. When calls are received from a land-line phone, dispatchers are given an address, but not specific coordinates. When a caller dials 911 from a cell phone in Cape Girardeau, he or she could wind up talking to dispatchers from Poplar Bluff or another city, depending on the cellular phone carrier.

The city is in the process of changing all that.

It will soon begin using Geographic Information System technology to come up with specific mapping information needed for Phase II service, in which technology will be used to trace cell signals from towers to the location of the caller.

The county money will go toward a contract with Jeff Kaszubski, a technician who will help collect the data.

Saving $15,000

Rich Daume, the city's GIS coordinator who is coordinating the project, said most of the work will include updating addresses. He said the fire department will also provide man-hours for the project. Because much of the project is being done in-house, Daume estimates the city's savings to be around $15,000.

"First, there will have to be a reviewing of addresses to make sure we've got them right," he said. "The actual lines we draw on the map need to have the addresses and they have to be right."

The city's current maps are not specific enough, Daume said. The position of the street lines need to be corrected a bit so they correspond perfectly to coordinates.

It will take about two months to collect the data, Daume said. After that, it will be up to the dispatchers to implement the data and make it useful with technology.

Cape Girardeau interim fire chief Mark Hasheider said, "We are months away from Phase II. There are a few items technologically that we have to implement. There are some other hardware needs that need to be put in place."

He added that such technology is more important in rural areas, but it does apply to the city as well.

"Take Big Bend Road, for instance," he said. "Homes on Big Bend are farther apart and farther off the road. Say you've been involved in an accident and you have to find out where you are. Sometimes we get calls like that where people are not familiar with that part of the city.

"With Phase II wireless, it will attribute a latitude and longitude coordinate to an address. Our addressing system we have now is working well, but we're moving into the next era of information and we want the maps to be 911 grade."

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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