Washington County Emergency Management officials are working to get a new 911 system. But it’s not going to happen any time soon. You could expect changes by the end of the year though.
At the Washington County Emergency Communications Center, certified call takers or dispatchers go through several hundred to a thousand phone calls a day. This is the primary center that takes all 911 calls and non-emergency calls for the entire county.
“The earthquake we had a couple years ago, we had over 300 calls within a span of like 20 minutes,” said Jennifer Swisher, Programs Manager.
The center also sends out public alerts through a county wide system called Everbridge. Officials say there is currently 30,000 phone numbers in that database.
“It would go to all the hardline phones in that county that are in that affected area or it would go to all wireless phones or both in that particular area,” said Charles Summers, Emergency Manager for Washington County.
And now officials say they are working to implement a new system that will allow residents to text 911 in the case of an emergency, called Next Generation.
“It would be printed on the screen and the dispatcher, call taker would be able to type back and forth with the person in need and the same questions, we would currently ask them if it was like you and I talking on the phone,” said Swisher.
These call takers that range from nine to 10 people working 12 hour shifts takes more than the staff they have to handle these calls. Officials hope flipping this switch will have people stay connected.
“And that would be only in extreme circumstances where they feel that is their only means. It’s always going to be better to have that voice on the phone. A lot about someones voice when they call 911 you can tell the kind of stress that they’re under,” said Swisher.