New 911 system may be operational in January

LISBON — Columbiana County’s new 911 system, which will be capable of accepting text messages, photographs and videos,  may finally be operational by the end of January.

County Commissioner Tim Weigle, who serves as chairman of the 911 advisory committee, was asked after this week’s advisory committee about the status of Next Generation (NG) 911.

“I had hoped we would be done by the end of the year, but I’m thinking it will be more like January,” he said.

General Dynamics was hired early 2015 to upgrade the county’s 11-year-old 911 system to NG911, and it was supposed to have been completed by now. Weigle said the biggest reason for the delay is it took AT&T 256 days to install the main trunk line, something 911 officials were told would take no more than 90 days.

“There was no sense of urgency with them,” he said, adding components of the new system could not be installed and tested until the trunk line was in place.

In other business, the committee approved county 911/Emergency Management Agency Director Director Peggy Clark’s plan  that would allow them to comply with a new state mandate while saving money for the the local law enforcement agencies that serve as 911 answering centers under the county’s system.

The answering centers are the county sheriff’s office and the Columbiana, East Liverpool, East Palestine and Salem police departments, and the state is requiring all 911 dispatchers be trained as emergency medical dispatchers (EMD) capable of providing additional assistance to callers with medical emergencies. The sheriff’s office and police departments were concerned they would have to bear the cost of having their dispatchers be trained to be EMDs, and the deadline to do so is May 2018.

Clark’s plan is to have herself and deputy 911/EMA director Brian Rutledge undergo the training to become certified EMD instructors and then train the 50 dispatchers employed at the sheriff’s office and four police departments. Rutledge estimated if the departments had to bear the expense on their own the cost would be $718 per dispatcher, minus travel and lodging, or $818 if they received the 72 hours of training online.

The cost to them under Clark’s plan would be $320 per dispatcher, which would be paid by the 911 committee. She said the plan will cost the 911 committee $15,182. It would cost another $3,312 every two years afterwards to have the dispatchers recertified, along with Clark and Rutledge as instructors, which the 911 committee would also pay.

Clark also reported Dr. Lauren Frederickson, chief emergency room physician at Salem hospital, has also agreed to serve as their EMD medical director — another requirement — at no cost to the county.

Ten percent of Clark’s salary comes from 911 funds, and she intends to speak with commissioners about designating a percentage of 911 funds to also be used to help pay Rutledge’s salary since a considerable amount of his time over the next 18 months will be spent on implementing this plan.

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