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911 goes high-tech in Franklin Co., Pa.

December 28, 1998

911 goes high-techBy DON AINES / Staff Writer, Chambersburg

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The computer screens in front of Oscar Reed told him there was a mountain fire in Lurgan Township, an auto accident in Antrim Township, a prisoner transfer at the Franklin County Prison and a cardiac patient in Chambersburg.

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"We're not punching incident cards and putting them into the computer. ... We put the information in here and we're done," Reed said of the new computer aided dispatch (CAD) system that went started operation Monday at the Emergency Communications Center in the basement of the Franklin County Courthouse.

"There sure have been a lot of changes in the 15 years I've been here," said Reed, a 911 supervisor.

When he started, there were telephones and push buttons to alert the appropriate police, fire or ambulance units.

"Like anything new, it's going to take some adjusting to," he said.

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County Communications Coordinator Bryan Stevenson said the CAD system replaces "our old manual system of time cards, writing down the information and stamping it on a time card."

The county's 16 full-time and 14 part-time telecommunicators will spend more time dispatching and no time logging information on a card system dating back to the 1970s, according to Stevenson.

"It gives us the capability to see which officers are on duty, or off duty, what are their patrol areas," Stevenson said. The same goes for fire, ambulance and other units needed in an emergency.

The system shows which units are available, which are at other incidents and which are out of service, Stevenson said.

"It will allow us to track the different agencies and apparatus, so they're not trying to figure out who is where," according to Bill Dubbs, a career firefighter with the Chambersburg Fire Department.

For three months, Stevenson said dispatchers have been working simultaneously with the card and CAD systems.

"As a records management system, it really moves us into the 21st century," according to Stevenson. It is also year 2000 compliant, he said.

"The capabilities are there for direct interfacing with police and fire companies," Stevenson said. Police, fire and ambulance squads can purchase software to monitor ongoing incidents or review records.

Stevenson said the system is being leased from Sprint for $8,000 a month for five years. At the end of that period, it could be replaced by a more modern system.

A global position system is being considered for the future, he said. That would allow dispatchers to track emergency units within feet of their locations in times of emergencies.

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