Knox Co. Commissioners Host E911 Public Meeting
By Echo Menges
On Wednesday, December 7, 2011 the Knox County Commissioners hosted a public informational meeting in the courtroom of the Knox County courthouse concerning the proposal to consolidate Knox County with Macon County Enhanced 911. The goal of the meeting was to inform the public about what exactly is being proposed and to obtain feedback from both community members and the emergency response agencies within the county. Macon County Enhanced 911 Director, Michael Kindle, and a member of their Board of Directors, Stan East, attended giving information and answering questions.
According to Kindle Missouri is the only state in the nation without statewide funding for enhanced (wireless) 911 systems. And the State’s Assembly, namely the Senate, has put a halt on moving forward with any proposals for statewide Enhanced 911 funding until Missouri’s counties, who still have sub-standard 911 systems, Knox County being one of them, consolidates with each other and updates their service.
“Last summer (Macon County) put in a Next Generation 911 switch based on a federal grant. That switch allows us to reach out to other counties and offer E911 service at a much reduced rate than we could have done in the past or that you can do on your own for that matter.” Said Kindle.
The 911 system in place in Knox County now is a “call forwarding” system, which according to Kindle, is a step below basic 911.
When a person in Knox County calls 911 from either a landline or a cell phone their call should automatically be routed to a Knox County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher. The callers location is not tracked only their name and phone number shows up on the dispatcher’s caller ID, providing the caller doesn’t have a caller ID block on their phone.
Most of Knox County’s emergency responders are able to go off the name alone. Give them the person’s name and they know exactly where to go, which is how it’s done and has been done here for years.
If the caller is in distress and can’t speak or doesn’t know where they are Knox County dispatchers are left to figure out a person’s location any way they can by using a reverse phone number directory for landline calls or by contacting the person’s cell phone provider and asking the cell phone provider to locate the person, provided the caller ID information isn’t blocked.
If the call requires an ambulance there is a separate dispatch center for that. The Knox County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher relays information to a Knox County Ambulance District dispatcher who in turn dispatches an ambulance to the location.
Should the Knox County Commissioners decide to consolidate with Macon County E911 all 911 calls requiring ambulance, fire and/or law enforcement, made in Knox County would be routed through one dispatch center in Macon. Each call would be automatically tracked regardless of what type of phone the caller is using or if they have their caller ID block on or not. Thus the term, “Enhanced 911.”
State Representative for District 1, Craig Redmon, who sat on the state’s Interim Committee on 911 Access also attended and gave information on what was, or more importantly, what wasn’t going be passed down from Jefferson City concerning any statewide mandates to convert to an enhanced 911 system. Mainly, according to Redmon, because lawmakers weren’t comfortable with making Missourians fund it by raising taxes opting to put the measure in the hands of the voters instead.
Redmon also spent time talking about the benefits of smaller counties like Knox consolidating with each other to bring service they couldn’t afford otherwise.
“This stuff costs a lot of money and has a shelf life like your computer, next year there will be a better one. It’s an ongoing cost for 911 service.” Said Redmon. “I think that as you start seeing the costs as it escalates you’ll see there’s just no way for each county to try and afford to do this on their own. It’s a lot of money.”
Several agencies and county offices were represented at the meeting including the Knox County Ambulance District, Rescue Squad, and Sheriff’s Office; volunteer fire departments throughout the county, the Edina Police Department and an Edina Alderman. Dozens of community members also attended the meeting asking questions and voicing concerns.
Many of the concerns were based on the loss of a few fulltime and several part-time positions, a total of 12, belonging to local dispatchers. Several attendees were concerned about the new addressing system that would have to be implemented in rural areas that haven’t already been changed to a 911 mapping compatible system and the cost of changing county road signs.
Law enforcement representatives voiced their concerns about the loss of dispatch jobs and brought up safety concerns.
Fire department representatives voiced concerns about getting the names of the emergency callers, which according to several of them, was the easiest way for them to know where to go, by getting the name opposed to just the address.
“This is just an informational meeting,” said Knox County Presiding Commissioner, Evan Glasgow, “we haven’t made any decisions yet.”
To listen to an audio recording of the E911 Public Informational Meeting on Wednesday, December 7, 2011 at the Knox County Courthouse please visit our web site at www.nemonews.net.
There is also a breakdown of the differences between call forwarding, basic and enhanced 911 services written by Michael Kindle in a letter to the Editor printed elsewhere in this issue of the Sentinel.