By Ed Runyan
Trumbull County commissioners are expected to approve an agreement between Century Link and the Trumbull County 911 Center today to provide Lordstown with updated dispatching equipment.
When the equipment is operational within a couple of months, the Lordstown center will be Phase 2 compliant, meaning the center will be able to pinpoint the origin of a wireless 911 call to within feet rather than miles.
Lordstown is one of three Trumbull County dispatching centers still without the updated equipment. The others are Niles, which is in the final stages of negotiations with the county 911 center, and Girard.
There are no current negotiations with Girard, said Ernie Cook, chief deputy with the Trumbull County Sheriff’s office and county 911 director.
The cost of purchasing phone switching equipment and a router will be $65,577, and upgrading the ethernet connection will be $24,600. The funds will come from the 911 Center Fund, which receives money from the monthly surcharge paid by all Trumbull County wireless telephone customers.
Brent Millhoan, Lords-town police chief, said the upgrade is becoming increasingly important because more and more people don’t use land phone lines. Cook said the county 911 center now receives 74 percent of its calls from cellphones.
The technology the Lords-town dispatching operation uses can only locate wireless 911 calls to the general area of a cellphone tower, which can be several miles.
The technology available to the county 911 center — which Lordstown will be able to use — pointpoints wireless calls to within feet by using global positioning.
That can be important when a wireless 911 caller needs help but doesn’t know where he is because he is unfamiliar with the area or he is incapacitated and can’t speak.
Another benefit to Lords-town residents will be that no matter how busy the Lordstown center is at any given time, there always will be a backup dispatcher at the county 911 center available to take overflow Lordstown calls, Millhoan said.
Lordstown’s center can serve as a backup to the Trumbull County center and Warren center as well, Millhoan said.
To Cook, equipping Lords-town with the updated equipment means Lords-town will become a “virtual center,” located in Lords-town, manned by a Lords-town dispatcher, but able to do everything the operators at the county 911 center in Howland can do.
The county has 10 dispatch stations; the Lordstown station will, in effect, be like an “11th seat,” Cook said.
Under the current system, Lordstown 911 calls are routed quickly through the county 911 center to the Lordstown center. But the transfer will happen in a “microsecond,” under the new system, Cook said.
The next transition, which is required by May 2014, will be for 911 systems to accept text messages.
All dispatching centers connected to the county system will have those capabilities by May, Cook said.