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911 services to get upgrade

December 20, 2002|by TARA REILLY

WASHINGTON COUNTY - The Washington County Department of Emergency Services plans to upgrade its 911 services so that dispatchers can immediately determine the name, number and location of cellular telephone callers who need assistance.

The Washington County Commissioners this week authorized the Department of Emergency Services to seek $1 million in funding for the project from the Maryland Emergency Numbers Board.

Director of Emergency Services Director Joe Kroboth said during the meeting he thinks the earliest the county will receive the money is next year.

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The Maryland Emergency Numbers Board funds major equipment purchases for primary 911 centers throughout the state. The funding is obtained from 911 service fees on all telephone bills in Maryland.

Washington County's request will be put on a waiting list and funded once the $1 million becomes available, according to county documents.

The county will contribute $2,000 to $3,000 for installation fees.

The upgrade, called Wireless Enhanced 911, is a federal requirement, Kroboth said. Washington County upgraded to Enhanced 911 for landline phones in 1994.

The wireless system, which Kroboth said could be in place by 2004, would measure signal strength and time delay to enable dispatchers to pinpoint within 100 feet the location of a cell phone caller.

Kroboth said Wireless Enhanced 911 is needed because the number of emergency calls received from cell phone users increases by 25.5 percent a year.

Cell phone calls make up between 40 percent to 55 percent of the county's approximately 70,000 annual calls to 911, he said.

The funding also would enable 911/Fire and Rescue communications to purchase a digital recorder, which records telephone and radio traffic.

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