Commission backs review of proposed 911 upgrade

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

The Cape Girardeau County Commission gave the initial approval on Monday to hire a consultant to delve into the county's proposed 911 service upgrade.

The consultant, Geocomm of Minneapolis, will be in charge of fine-tuning the county's plans, needs and equipment coordination as it pertains to the upgrade to wireless Phase 2 service, which allows dispatchers to locate cellular phone calls.

The 911 advisory board called on four consultants and met with three. Geocomm has informally agreed -- a contract has not yet been signed -- to do the work for $39,850. The 911 board has set aside about $2 million with the 911 upgrade in mind. The county and 911 board felt uncomfortable in taking on the expensive upgrade without hiring a consultant with extensive experience in major upgrades and the evolving communication technology.

The consultant will do the following:

Prepare an extensive request for proposal and review the bids that are received.

Provide an engineering review and needs assessment of the county's communications capabilities, including the overall quality of radio communications infrastructure in the county.

Provide an assessment of existing GIS map data in the county regarding the appropriateness for use in plotting wired and wireless 911 calls.

Provide an expert to oversee the implementation of Phase I and II cellular service.

Currently, dispatchers in Cape Girardeau County cannot locate a person who makes a 911 call using a cell phone. A Phase I upgrade would allow a dispatcher to narrow down which tower the cell signal is coming from and know that the caller is within the range of that tower. Phase II technology would allow a dispatcher to narrow down an emergency cellular call within 100 feet.

David Hitt, the county emergency management director, said the improvements include more than just an upgrade to Phase II wireless service.

The county also intends to add features like a statistics package; synchronized clocks for each of the county's three dispatch offices; and police records software that will alert fire and police personnel of any emergency or criminal activity that has occurred at that residence.

The sophisticated and continuously improving technology, as well as the coordination of three dispatching centers, will require intricate planning.

"It's very complicated," said David Hitt, the county emergency management director. "That's why we wanted a consultant with the needed experience in these fields. And the thing about this consultant, is that there are several individuals in the company with expertise in these areas."

In written correspondence with the 911 board, Geocomm said it could have the request for proposals available for publication by mid-2004 with the new equipment and software scheduled for either late this year or early 2005.

"It's about what we anticipated," Hitt said. "I think it's do-able."

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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