Plans to replace the 911 system have been in the works for the past two years and the new system was installed two weeks ago, in accordance with the planned schedule. The county’s capital improvements budget covered the cost of the project.
Denise Schultz, the manager of Portage County Communications Center, said it has been many years since the system was last updated and the previous system was extremely old and outdated.
The new system will require less maintenance and upkeep, which will in the long run save the county money. The new system will be more dependable with mapping, which allows dispatcher to pinpoint the location of a 911 caller.
“It is being used 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. We need to have reliable system,” Schultz said.
In addition to having more dependable day-to-day use, the upgrade came with a backup server. If the main server were to fail for any reason, such as a power outage, or if the communication center needed to be evacuated, dispatch would be able to operate from a remote location established with Portage County Highway Department.
Schultz said one capability the system still does not have is the means to receive picture, video or text messages.
“I don’t want anyone to have the perception that if they text 911 we will be able to receive that message,” Schultz said.
Although the system may eventually have that ability, the network system throughout Wisconsin cannot support that kind of messaging. Schultz said that it would cost millions of dollars to upgrade all the networks and it will likely be years before that is even considered a possibility.
Also new to the dispatch center is a program called Automatic Location Identifier (ALI). Anyone who wishes to can sign up with this program to have their medical information, such as existing conditions or medications they are taking, pop up on the dispatchers screen when they call 911. This will allow dispatchers to pass that information on to officers or EMT’s when they are sent to a scene.