BY KEN LITTLE
Greene County's "next generation" 911 communications system is up and running.
Dispatchers at the county 911 call center at 111 Union St. began using it Thursday morning.
"It's working fine," county 911 Director Jerry Bird said Friday.
FASTER, BETTER CLARITY
The 911 communications system routes calls faster to dispatchers, and digital technology provides better call-clarity, Bird said.
He estimates that at least 70 percent of 911 calls originate from cell phones. Calls of all types to the Greene County 911 office totaled 39,877 in 2012.
"The clarity of the call is better, but you're still going to get some static and noise in a rural area," Bird said.
It has the future capability of allowing texting to 911, and instantly connecting to other 911 centers in the state once the new-generation systems are installed throughout Tennessee.
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.
FIFTH TO GO ONLINE
Greene County is the fifth of the eight districts to go online. Bristol should connect into the system the first week of December, and the system should be installed in Carter and Unicoi counties in the first quarter of 2014, Bird said.
Technicians from provider CenturyLink were busy Thursday disconnecting old software and hardware of the existing 911 communications system, which had been in use on Greene County for about 10 years.
The new system has an "abandoned-call feature" for hang-up calls, Bird said.
"If you call 911 inadvertently, then it goes into a special buffer in the computer and it calls it back automatically," he said.
Dispatchers were still adjusting to the new system Friday, and some "minor issues" were being worked out, but overall the system is working well, Bird said.
'EASIER TO USE'
The new system enables dispatchers to enter more call information into the database and transfer it more quickly to first responders.
"It's a faster system to get calls to help people, and it's easier to use for the dispatchers," Bird said.
The system has another "ease of use" feature that allows more dispatchers to simultaneously listen to the same call, he said.
CenturyLink facilities in Johnson City and Bristol serve as the routing hubs of the state-of-the-art system.
The next-generation 911 communications equipment has a projected life of 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.