TRUMBULL COUNTY, Ohio (WYTV) — Cell phones have changed the way most live their lives, from contacting one another, to paying for coffee or surfing the internet. However, more and more people are also dialing 911 from their cell or smart phones, which will soon revolutionize the way those calls are answered in counties around Ohio.
Emergency operators and dispatchers are gearing up for a major overhaul, and are looking into exactly what the change will affect.
Columbiana County put its current 911 plan in place in 2005. Right now, there are five Public Safety Answering Points scattered around the county.
“We’re running on a 10-year-old system right now where we know we have antiquated equipment, and it’s only a matter of time that something’s going to fail completely,” said Columbiana County Commissioner Tim Weigle.
Trumbull County is also down to just five answering points, after starting with eight, dispatching for close to 50 different police, fire and emergency agencies.
Both counties are working toward “Next Generation” 911 service, to better handle cell phone calls, texts and streaming video.
“They’re going to answer that phone the same way, ask the same questions throughout the United States,” said Trumber County 911 Chief Deputy Sheriff, Ernest Cook.
Cook said a three-year plan at the state level calls for Ohio to set up 17 regional dispatch centers across the state. Those centers would answer all calls for service statewide.
Cook said he feels that Trumbull County 911 is well-positioned to be one of those sites in northeast Ohio.
Morgan County in southern Ohio is already Nex-Gen 911 compliant. Weigle said Columbiana County could be close behind and he hopes to go Next-Gen by April.
It cost the county about $1.2 million to install its old system. So Next-Gen equipment sounds like a bargain at a little more than $500,000.
“The equipment gets a lot neater, smaller, more compact,” said Weigle.
One place Trumbull County doesn’t dispatch is in the city of Warren. City and county leaders continue to kick around the pros and cons of consolidating service.
“They’re in talks, and we’re exploring whether there are benefits to it, versus any problems that may result from it,” said Warren Safety Service Director Enzo Cantalamessa.
“We’ll increase about 60 percent in calls, the city of Warren is busy,” added Cook.
More dispatchers sharing services under the same roof could save taxpayer dollars. However, Cantalamessa said they won’t trade cost-savings for safety of citizens or law enforcement.
Cook added that the call for Next Generation 911 service nationwide came out of the Virginia Tech tragedies, where many students and professors couldn’t send texts or connect from their cell phones to local 911 dispatching centers.