BY KEN LITTLE
The 911 "next generation" communications system in Greene County is scheduled to be operational Nov. 21.
Jerry Bird, county 911 director, said that technical problems with the system have been addressed sooner than had been anticipated.
Greene County 911 dispatchers received some refresher training this week on the new system, along with dispatchers from Kingsport and Bristol, Tenn.
The Kingsport 911 communications system "went live" Wednesday with no difficulties reported, Bird said. Bristol will "go live" in early December.
Bird said in late August that he did not anticipate that the new Greene County communications system would go on line until 2014.
But, he said, provider CenturyLink made progress in improving the procedure for performing updates that won't cause the 911 system to crash.
"We are scheduled to go live around Nov. 21," Bird said Wednesday.
The equipment was purchased cooperatively and will be used by the eight 911 districts in Upper East Tennessee: Greene County, the city of Bristol, Carter County, Johnson County, the city of Kingsport, Sullivan County, Unicoi County and Washington County.
The system is already operational in Johnson City and in Sullivan and Washington counties, where the technical problems were encountered, Bird said.
The technical difficulties "have been resolved to the satisfaction of all the districts," Bird said.
"With new internal policies in place, (CenturyLink) had resolved all the problems," he said.
The new communications system has several advantages, including the capacity for sharing information more quickly with other areas in the state than was possible before.
About 75 percent of the calls that come into the 911 center are from cellphones, Bird said. Calls of all types to the Greene County 911 office totaled 39,877 in 2012.
The new system will allow dispatchers to enter more call information into the database and transfer it more quickly to First Responders.
In addition, the system has another "ease of use" feature that will enable more dispatchers to simultaneously listen to the same call, Bird said.
All the necessary computer software and hardware for the new system is in place at the Greene County 911 dispatch center, at 111 Union St.
CenturyLink facilities in Johnson City and Bristol serve as the routing hubs of the state-of-the-art system.
MONEY SET ASIDE
The projected life of the next-generation 911 communications equipment is seven years.
The state, through the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board, has set aside $211,700 to reimburse Greene County for its share of the new equipment.
The money that Greene County will receive for the communications system will be used as follows: $87,000 for the regional component in Johnson City; a five-year maintenance contract for the software installed at the Union Street 911 office; and funds to update technology at the Greene County 911 center.