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911 system advances to next gen technology

Upgrades allow for texting, sending videos; dispatchers also can work at any location

WARREN — A new phone system capable of next generation 911 technology like texting and sending video to dispatchers was put online Wednesday.

The $551,000 Motorola Vesta System was approved by Trumbull County commissioners in 2019. The Trumbull County 911 Center had to get new computer equipment and servers, and had to upgrade to Windows 10 before the system could be changed over, said Ernest Cook, director of the 911 center.

“This is monumental. Digital, next gen ready. And we just wrote a grant to obtain texting software (for $40,000) and hopefully next will be video. You will be able to send video and photos to 911 as you see a crime happening, and we will be able to send it to the police officer in the cruiser,” Cook said.

The new technology is at the 911 center in Howland and at the smaller 911 centers in Niles, Girard and Lordstown.

On Wednesday, Cook said the center in Howland started by crossing over three of the 10 stations to the new system, while the other seven stations stayed on the old system so the kinks could be worked out. Representatives from CenturyLink were onsite to assist with the crossover, he said.

The screens of the stations were configured in a familiar way to make the transition easier on the dispatchers, he said. The new system has a lot of benefits, Cook said.

“One of the most important things is queuing. Say we have 100 calls — 90 are administrative and 10 are 911 calls. The way it worked before, we picked up a call and we wouldn’t know if it was one of these administrative calls or a 911 call. There was no way to prioritize. Now, we can prioritize 911 calls over administrative calls,” Cook said.

The priority of the center should be to take 911 calls over other ones the center takes throughout the day, Cook said. He said people who call the non-emergency number will still be answered, but emergencies have to take precedence.

“There were 54,000 of these calls last year; this tool will help us manage it,” Cook said.

The system also works faster, bringing up caller information and location sooner than the old system, and it has an automatic call-back feature for dropped calls, Cook said.

“Now, it is instantaneous. When the ring comes in, the system automatically locks on,” Cook said.

Because the system is in place in all of the 911 centers in the county, dispatchers from any of the centers can work out of stations at any location, Cook said.

“If there is an issue here or in Niles, Girard or Lordstown, we can send the dispatcher to one of the other stations, and she can log in to her profile and answer the calls that would be coming in to her center. If we go down, we can send dispatchers to Niles or Lordstown to answer our calls. We can be in Niles, Girard, Lordstown or here (the Howland center) — someone will answer the call,” Cook said.

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