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911 service in western/central NY
911 pinpoints cell phones
Two counties adding satellite tracking technology to save lives.
By Jack Jones
(June 29, 2003) — CANANDAIGUA - Because of shortcomings in emergency
communication systems, last summer’s tour bus crash that killed five people
on the state Thruway in Victor might have been even more tragic.
“The first call that came in to us was a cell phone call from a Hispanic
woman trapped on the bus who was hysterical and had no idea where she was,”
said Ontario County Sheriff’s Capt. Murray Henry, director of the county’s
911 emergency dispatch center.
“The only good thing to be said about that accident is that it happened in
daylight on the highly traveled Thruway, so within a short time we got calls
from other motorists who knew the area and directed us to the crash site. If
it had happened after dark, or on a rural road, we would have had a lot of
trouble locating it and getting help to those people.”
If everything goes as planned, by the end of July, Ontario County will have
a communications system able to pinpoint the exact locations of people who
dial 911 on newly available cell phones equipped with satellite tracking
When the new 911 call tracking system - based on the satellite-directed
global positioning system (GPS) now available in some cars and in hand-held
direction-finding devices - is in place, dispatchers will be able to direct
police and emergency crews precisely to emergencies at any location on land
or sea, according to Murray and Sgt. Michael Bradley, director of the
Livingston County 911 call center.
Livingston and Ontario received accreditation of their 911 call centers from
the state Sheriffs’ Association in June. Livingston also will upgrade to the
new Phase II cellular tracking system in July, Bradley said.
“Ontario and Livingston are in a race of sorts to see who can be in Phase II
compliance first,” he said.
Monroe County hopes to have Phase II up and running by spring, said Craig
Johnson, deputy director of the Monroe 911 center.
Because Monroe County has a much larger population than either Ontario or
Livingston and handles an average 2,600 calls a day - compared with about
220 a day in the rural counties - “We’re a tad behind them” in upgrading
equipment and services, said Johnson.
Bradley said that dispatchers who got a call from Rochester murder victim
Jennifer Koon, the daughter of Assemblyman David Koon, D-Perinton, may have
been able to direct police to her rescue if they had been able to pinpoint
her location when she called 911 for help after being abducted while using a
bank ATM machine at Pittsford Plaza in 1993.
“It’s been said that 911 failed Jennifer Koon,” Bradley said. “911 didn’t
fail Jennifer Koon. It was a failure of technology” unavailable at the time.
Alan Larsson KC2GOC / NYSING-305
Webmaster, Genesee & Ontario Model-N-Gineers Ntrak
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