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Enhanced 911 touted

February 03, 1998

By AMY WALLAUER

Staff Writer, Martinsburg

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - An enhanced 911 system would provide emergency service dispatchers with exact addresses and telephone numbers for 911 calls and shave two to three minutes off response times, a Motorola consultant told Jefferson County residents Tuesday night.

About 30 people attended the public hearing to inform residents about enhanced 911, which is expected to be operational in Jefferson County by mid-1999 if the County Commission approves the ordinance.

The enhanced 911 system would replace the current basic system, which can't trace calls or provide detailed information about the address.

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"What we're looking at is if someone who has a dire emergency and doesn't know where they are, or can't tell us where they are, we can find them," said Chief Cecil Arnold of the Shepherdstown Police Department.

With the current system, a dispatcher relies on the information provided by the caller. If the caller hangs up or is disconnected, the dispatcher must use the telephone company to trace the call. That process can take a few minutes, or in some cases, can't be done.

With enhanced 911, the call is traced and the phone number and address pop up on the computer screen before the dispatcher picks up the phone. The enhanced system can cut two to three minutes off response time by providing information to the dispatcher immediately.

Supporters say this is vital to a growing community like Jefferson County, where new businesses and homes are steadily popping up.

"Our system was one of the first in the country and one that our county is very proud of," Arnold said. "But since then, there's been volumes, mountains of information and technology to improve it, and this system has never been upgraded."

The total cost of the installation and the manpower for the first year is expected to be $511,416. The projected five-year cost of the system is $2.75 million.

All phone users in the county would pay for the system with a $1.93 surcharge added to their telephone bills each month.

If the Commission approves the ordinance, the equipment will be purchased by the end of this year, said County Commission President Greg Lance. The system would then be phased in over 18 months as the U.S. Postal Service assigns street addresses.

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