Chesterton Tribune

State will soon expand mobile 911 coverage

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By Lesley Weidenbener

Franklin College Statehouse Bureau

INDIANAPOLIS – Emergency responders receiving 911 calls from mobile phones will soon have more ability to track the locations statewide of those who need help.

A newly signed agreement with AT&T means the state can now extend its integrated 911 wireless network to all 92 counties in Indiana, making it possible for 911 centers in one place to transfer emergency calls and location data to responders in another.

“Eighty percent of all 911 calls are being delivered on wireless devices and those wireless devices are not affixed to permanent addresses,” said Barry Ritter, executive director of the Wireless 911 Advisory Board. “That means it’s utterly important to be able to track a location and send help where it’s needed.”

Other providers – including Frontier and Cingular Wireless – had already signed agreements with the advisory board, bringing 52 counties into the network.

But that left officials in 40 counties – the ones with AT&T as their designated wireless 911 providers – without the ability to transfer key data into another emergency jurisdiction. Among those counties are Bartholomew, Clark, Lake, LaPorte and Henry counties, Ritter said.

That meant, for example, that someone traveling along Interstate 70 could call for help in Wayne County and have his location tracked to help emergency personnel respond. But if the driver then crossed into Henry County, his location and other information couldn’t be transferred to emergency officials there.

Under the new agreement with AT&T, however, all 92 counties will now be covered, said state Treasurer Richard Moudock, who chairs the wireless 911 board.

"After several years of negotiation I am pleased that Hoosiers will now receive even better 911 services," said Mourdock.

State and telecommunications officials plan to begin rolling out the new services and provide training to responders within 30 to 60 days, Ritter said.

That’s not only important for typical 911 situations, such as accidents or medical emergencies. But it could be particularly crucial during larger scale emergencies, Ritter said.

“Once all 92 counties are connected, Indiana’s Department of Homeland Security will also be able to receive complete information concerning critical incidents or natural disasters," he said.

When the project is complete, Indiana will be one of the few states where a wireless 911 call can be transferred among counties and different 911 authorities with the data that displays the location of the caller.

 

Posted 8/31/2011