After three-year wait, Fulton launches 911 system

March 31, 2000|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

McCONELLSBURG, Pa. - It took more than three years, but Fulton County's first 911 emergency calling system went into effect this week, meaning residents will no longer have to look in a phone directory for the closest fire or ambulance crew and dial a 7-digit phone number to reach them.

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The new system, which sends calls to Carlisle, Pa., through fiber-optic cables, has a local backup dispatch center in case the Cumberland County Office of Emergency Preparedness in Carlisle gets backed up or goes down temporarily, said Lynn Joyce, coordinator of the new Fulton County system.

Dispatchers in Carlisle will send out fire trucks and ambulances from Fulton County's three fire departments in McConellsburg, Needmore and Hustontown, its three basic ambulance services and two advance life support services.

Eventually the system will also dispatch the McConnellsburg Borough Police Department.

The Pennsylvania State Police barracks in McConnellsburg has its own dispatching system. It currently dispatches for the borough police department.


Before the new system went into effect Tuesday, residents had to call one of three phone numbers for emergency service, Joyce said.

The new system required setting up about 7,500 new addresses in the borough of McConnellsburg and every rural area of the county. Rural addresses went from post office box numbers to street addresses.

Supervisors in Fulton County's incorporated townships helped by assigning and adopting road names in their jurisdictions, Joyce said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation helped with state roads, and residents who live on private roads and lanes agreed to come up with names, she said.

Fulton County could not afford to set up and staff its own 911 dispatching center, Joyce said.

Fulton County has a six-year contract with Cumberland County to handle its 911 system. Final costs for setting up the system are not in yet, but Joyce said her annual budget will run between $120,000 and $130,000.

Money to pay for the system comes from grants obtained by the Fulton County Commissioners and from the $1.50 monthly fee that has been added to each resident's telephone bill since October 1998.

Joyce said the dispatch center in Carlisle has not had to add employees to handle the Fulton calls.

The local office runs with Joyce and Mary K. Seville. Both workers are full time, Joyce said.

She is hiring 10 part-time dispatchers to run the local center when Carlisle is down or overloaded with its own emergencies.

Joyce said the 10 will be the first trained under a new state policy set up by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. Until now individual counties and dispatch centers trained their own personnel. The state agency now requires that all dispatchers go through a uniform training program, Joyce said.

The new system will automatically show the dispatcher the caller's phone number and address, a help in case the caller cannot complete the call.

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