911 tale is technical nightmare
COLUMBUS, Jul 12, 2012 (Columbus Telegram - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A placid meeting of the Platte County Board of Supervisors last week quickly changed when Darlene Cherry recounted a terrifying afternoon she spent waiting for an ambulance.
"When you hear 911, I'm assuming you get a warm, secure, reliable feeling that they're going to be there for you," Cherry said before detailing a 911 call she placed for an ambulance to get help for her daughter who had sustained a puncture wound.
Responders were not able to trace her cell phone location accurately, and she was shuffled from her initial dispatcher to other 911 services. During the transfers, Cherry and her husband Mike did their best to stop the bleeding with towels.
Cherry told the board the call followed other 911 calls that spiraled into confusion because her Platte County address is close to the border with Nance County. Thinking her address to be the issue, Cherry called a Genoa Rescue Squad member she knows to guide the response and urged the board to coordinate with Nance County for a coherent address system.
"Who do we need to deal with to get a unified address so that when I need to call them again, I don't have to personally call into town to get someone to come out?" she asked.
Columbus Police Capt. Todd Thalken and other E-911 committee members are meeting with Cherry to discuss a solution, but he said an address change to one used by both counties was be unlikely.
"Each county has their own way of addressing because everything starts with a base. Each county starts with their own Road A or Road 1," he said. "Unified addressing isn't as easy as you might think it would be."
Furthermore, changing the address would do little to solve the actual problem.
Reviewing Cherry's call, Thalken said the problem was not the fault of her street address on the edge of two counties, but her location on the edge of three emergency responders' jurisdictions or Emergency Service Numbers (ESN).
"They're in a really, really tight area," Thalken said. "On her side of the avenue, it's ESN 616 and 617. Across the avenue, it's 615. They're subject to a little bit of guessing."
The guessing is nonexistent when calling from a land line, and if the dispatcher had received a call from Cherry's home phone, they would have been able to pinpoint the home within the 617 ESN.
But Cherry's husband had called 911 from a cell phone, as many households would where the home phone is a mobile number. She said the call was picked up from a cell tower in St. Edward routing it to Boone County when she called expecting emergency a response from Genoa.
"When you start using a cell phone, it adds some problems to the situation," Thalken said explaining that older cell phone's calls are located using a rough system that triangulates the calls based on their approximation to a tower.
GPS can be employed for newer models, but Thalken said this advantage would be compromised in Cherry's case because she's so close to many bordering emergency response territories.
Thalken said next generation 911 systems available will have better cell call tracing, as well as the ability to receive and respond to text messages with pictures and video of an accident.
Thalken said the upgrade will make tracing cell phone locations much more accurate, although not as exact as a land line.
"But (when calling 911) do you want them to pin point your location precisely or do you want the dispatcher to call for the ambulance?," Thalken said.
Within the year, 911 is also consolidating redundant equipment and centralizing services to cover regions rather than working as individual counties. Platte County will be rolled into a 10-county region that also includes Dodge, Saunders, Colfax, Butler, Polk, Nance, Boone, Howard and Merrick counties.
The tools for first responders will improve in the coming years, but Thalken said cooperation between emergency services will continue to be essential as it was with Cherry's call. While Platte County 911 talked with Cherry, the dispatcher summoned Genoa rescue.
"Six stitches later, she was back to riding her bike," Cherry said. "They did a wonderful job when they arrived."
But she said the delay from the first responders was unacceptable.
"I'm not saying (911) doesn't work. It just didn't work for me."
___ (c)2012 the Columbus Telegram (Columbus, Neb.) Visit the Columbus Telegram
(Columbus, Neb.) at www.columbustelegram.com Distributed by MCT Information
[ Satellite Spotlight's Homepage ]