Jefferson Co. only one in W.Va. without computer-aided dispatch

Upgrading the county's 911 system would cost about $850,000

August 04, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Jeff Polczynski, communications director for Jefferson County.
By Richard F. Belisle, Staff Writer

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Jefferson County is the only jurisdiction in West Virginia without a sophisticated, high-tech, computer-assisted dispatch system for its police officers, fire departments and EMS units.

The Jefferson County Commission learned that fact Thursday during an overview on how such a system would improve the county's 911 emergency call system.

Upgrading the county's 911 system would cost about $850,000 — a price tag that Commissioner Walter Pellish opposed.

Pellish wondered how some of the state's poorer counties were able to afford such a high-tech system.

"We're a fairly wealthy county," he said. "How did those other counties do it without spending $800,000?"

"This is cutting-edge technology, and it's very expensive," Commissioner Frances Morgan said. "This (presentation) is just an overview, not a decision."

The presentation was given by Jeff Polczynski, communications director for the county.

Polczynski said computer-aided dispatch, or CAD, is an efficient, clear, concise communications system that provides data sharing between those taking calls at the 911 center, dispatchers and emergency crews. It would cut response times for police, fire and ambulance units.

The system is more efficient in locating a scene and situation of a crime, fire or medical emergency. With it in place, a dispatcher can send out an emergency responder while the caller still is on the phone.

The county's current emergency dispatch system is state of the art, "but it's minus one major component — CAD," Polczynski said.

Computer-aided dispatch systems have been in existence since the early 1970s, Polczynski said.

"Jefferson County is the only county in West Virginia that doesn't have one," he said.

In a related issue, Todd Fagan, coordinator of the county's emergency addressing program, told the commission Thursday that only 68 percent of the county's homes and businesses have visible address numbers attached to buildings. Without them, police, fire and emergency crews have difficulty finding addresses in emergencies, he said.

Under the law, the numbers have to be visible 50 feet from the road. If not, they must be put at the end of driveways.

Fagan said his agency has been trying for about two years through a soft public-relations effort to get residents to comply with the ordinance.

He said the next step is to send out reminders. Then, if those are ignored, notices of noncompliance will be sent. If property owners continue to resist, he will enforce the ordinance, violation of which carries fines of up to $500.

"Our goal is to find people, not fine them," Fagan said.

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