Tazewell County is upgrading its 911 system to better pinpoint callers and send photos, videos and other multimedia information to staff.
The next-generation 911 system is a nationwide emergency communications infrastructure that enables voice and multimedia communications between 911 callers and 911 centers and between field responders. For the next generation of 911 systems, citizens who need emergency assistance will be able to transmit photos, videos, data, applications, and voice.
"The next generation of 911 is an upgrade to the 911 system," said Erin Morey, 911 coordinator of the Tazewell County Emergency Telephone System Committee. "The old analog 911 system is outdated and the next generation 911 is based on Internet Protocol (IP)."
In the 2016 Illinois Telephone System Act Amendment, the Illinois State Assembly directed the implementation of the statewide next-generation 911 network by July 1, 2020. The network must provide improved 911 call delivery; enhanced interoperability; easier communication between 911 service providers, allowing immediate transfer of 911 calls, caller information, photos and other data across the state; and PSAP throughout the region A central server that can be connected remotely. Morey said that Tazewell County is already preparing to transition to the next generation of 911 systems by upgrading equipment in two public safety answering points at the Taswell County Integrated Communications Center.
"Our old equipment doesn't have the ability to post text to 911," she said. “We also need to update our mapping to prepare for a more accurate caller location. Taswell County has installed IP-based telephony equipment. We are also working to update our Geographic Information Service (GIS) data to national standards. "
Morey added that the next-generation 911 system will improve emergency services by allowing dispatchers to better determine caller location. Under the current system, some calls have a limited number of caller location information.
“Usually, the dispatcher will receive a call, which may be less than 15 miles from the signal tower,” she said. “It’s very frustrating when trying to send help. With the next-generation 911 system, the goal is to be able to more accurately determine the location of callers. Counties are also working to convert text to 911 as another form of emergency call.”
Morey said that the Tazewell County Integrated Communications Center has been working closely with the city's municipal and county agencies to provide the most accurate information for dispatchers and to provide the most accurate information for police, fire and emergency medical services. This includes an updated air map of Tazewell County showing new streets, buildings and communities. The Tazewell County Integrated Communications Center has been using a GPS-based map service to update county maps to show the address and structure of all properties.
“This project should have been carried out long ago, especially with the development of Tazewell County over the past decade,” Morey said. “The new aerial view is a good tool for dispatchers to try to describe the terrain or call location in an emergency. The field unit will also be able to take advantage of the new map.”
Morey said that the upgrade of the Tazwell County Integrated Communications Center should have been long gone. Given the costs associated with staffing, upgrading and maintaining the latest equipment, funding is always a problem in emergency dispatch services.
“Some of our equipment has been around for more than 20 years,” she said. “Our technicians work very hard to maintain our equipment, so scheduling can remain functional. It is expensive to fund the 2411 Dispatch Center 24/7. We rely on the 911 surcharge to keep it running. However, political games often encounter 911. This does not help our situation, because 911 will never stop sounding."