County Considering Options Regarding E-911

OSWEGO, NY – Oswego County is seeking a grant to help fund a study regarding the best route for its E-911 System.

Mike Allen, director of the county’s 911 system is looking into a shared services study proposition.

“With the build out of the regional communications system, certainly has a group of people throughout the region thinking about ways that we can save and sustain the service,” he told members of the county’s Public Safety Committee on Monday afternoon.

They are in the process of looking for grant dollars to fund the study that they have assessed, “and come up with a roadmap, if you will, for a plan to move toward shared services and or consolidation of service,” he said.

The first step is to see if there are grant dollars available, he noted.

They have identified a possible grant through New York State.

“There is a possibility of five counties receiving up to $100,000. Our budgetary estimate for doing a study like this is in that $100,000 range,” he said. “So, we’d like to see if we could get the money and then do the study if the money is available.”

To move forward with the grant application process, Allen said he needs a memo from the full legislature in support of the plan.

The committee gave the request a favorable recommendation.

Statistical Report

The 911 director also presented a brief summery of activity in December at the center.

Their call count is down slightly, he pointed out.

There has been an increase of the number of calls the center has received from wireless phones.

“The land wire line 911 calls continue to reduce in number and the wireless calls continue to increase in number,” he told the committee. “We often don’t have good location information from those wireless calls. It’s something that should be provided to us on a regular basis, but the phone companies, for whatever reason, aren’t giving us very good information. It is something that we are struggling with.”

Legislator Louella LeClair wanted to know how the center was handling that problem.

“If I was on the road and didn’t know where I was and I called you for help, you might have trouble finding my location? Is this what you’re saying to me?” she asked.

One method would be contacting her phone company and using the GPS in her cell phone to track her.

“In a lot of cases we are getting what we call ‘Phase One’ information. We can see the address of the tower that is connected to your cell phone and we can see the sector, or piece of pie if you will, the general area that that call is coming in from,” he said. “If they have a good fix on your location, we are receiving the latitude and longitude. Then we can put a point on a map to about 50 meters of where you are with a wireless 911 call.”

That happens about 70 percent of the time. The rest of the time they have either just the Phase One information, or in some cases, no information.

“So we are constantly asking our people where they are at; using our interrogation methods trying to get good locations should they not know where they are,” he explained. “It’s always a struggle, always will be a struggle. We as an organization – state and nationwide – are working with the wireless providers to improve that call location information.”

Allen also explained that in many cases, the center receives many calls regarding accidents, which is good if the victim in unable to call themselves.

They are working with the local snowmobile clubs and the county’s promotion and tourism department to post location signs along the trails and creating a corresponding map to make it easier to locate snowmobile accident victims, he added.

That’s why you need to have the latest technology, he said.

“The caller’s expectation is that you know where they are and you know what to send to them before you even answer the phone,” he said. “That is the perception of most people who use 911. You’re always behind the 8-ball with these folks.”

There are two ways of getting a fix on a location. One is the satellite, the celestial version and the other land-based, which uses the signal from one or more tower sites and a mathematical process to figure out the location.

Land-based seems to be more accurate, he added.

The non-emergency calls are also showing a slight decrease, he said, adding that they are still in the 220,000 (overall) calls per year range.

“On the incident statistics side, we look at some rather significant increases in the cities for dispatching purposes,” he said.

There has been a nearly 40 percent increase in fire calls volume, he pointed out.

Overall, from 2010 to 2011 there was an increase of 5.65 percent in call volume, he said.