911 center receives new telecommunications system

FROM STAFF REPORTS

   The 70,000 emergency calls the Elizabethton/Carter County 911 Communications Center receives each year will now be processed faster and more efficiently. A new $148,000 digital telecommunications system will begin operation later this month at the center.
   Center Director, Walt Pierce, said the current analog telecommunications system is being upgraded with funds from the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board (TECB) in Nashville.
   The TECB began collecting a 911 surcharge of 85 cents per month, beginning June 16, 1999, from all cell phone subscribers in Tennessee. TECB must distribute 25 percent of the surcharge to each Emergency Communications District in Tennessee.
   Last fall, the board of directors of the Elizabethton/Carter County district purchased the equipment and installation from Sprint. Similar systems now operate in Washington, Greene and Sullivan Counties, Bristol, Tenn. and Virginia and Galax, Va.
   According to Steve Laek, Sprint's public safety sales representative, the equipment is fully redundant in its telephone switching elements, memory and database. It is manufactured by CML Limited, Hull in Quebec, Canada.
   The system also provides new telephone lines and trunks, personal computers, and monitors; an instant recall recorder, which allows dispatchers to listen to a taped recording of the call; automatic dial and speed dial by touching an icon on a computer monitor; and portable telephone answering unit.
   Roger Krantz, business service manager for Sprint, said installation of the new equipment will begin Monday, Jan. 20, and will be completed by Wednesday, Jan. 29. Other Sprint personnel overseeing the installation are George France, sales engineer, and John Varney, project manager. Training on the new system will be conducted over several days.
   The project also calls for the addition of a fourth console for use by 911 dispatchers. "We are pleased that the 911 telecommunications system upgrade will not place an additional financial burden on taxpayers in Elizabethton and Carter County," Pierce said.
   In a typical year, 200,000 telephone calls are received at the 911 Communications Center but only about one-third of them involve true emergencies.
   "Every call is important, however, to determine the emergency and type response needed," Pierce said.