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Kanab, Utah's Weekly Newspaper, Serving Kane County, Utah & the Arizona Strip

Southern Utah News Front Page: July 12, 2018

Southern Utah News Front Page Photo

Kane County adding text 911

Workers are feverishly working on the new 911 text system being installed in the Kane County Dispatch Office. The project should be up and running by August 1. Photo courtesy Dave Owens, IT Director.

 

By Dixie Brunner

Emergencies out here come in a variety of forms, and the Kane County Dispatch has professionally and calmly handled the often frantic 911 calls for years. After determining what the emergency is, they will dispatch the appropriate responders to assist in resolving the crisis or situation and getting the victim help.

Seeking emergency assistance will soon become easier, when Kane County begins implementing an all-new text to 911 program. The individual can send a text message to summon help in an emergency.

Dave Owens, Kane County’s main IT and tech director, explained that the program is expected to be rolled out by August 1. The server room is located in Kane County’s Public Safety Facility, and dispatch personnel have been training on the programs to prepare for its launch.

Kane County joined together with four other southern Utah counties – Beaver, Garfield, Iron and Washington – as a part of the Dixie Area Multi-node system. That means they have opted to functionally consolidate the server portion of the equipment with the Dixie Area Multi-node.

Owens and Kane County were able to secure grant money to help with the purchase of new equipment and upgrades for computers, hardware and software, and employee training. In the initial grant application Owens pointed out that Kane County Sheriff’s Office dispatches to 4,000 square miles of Utah and an additional 2,500 square miles of Arizona. Those dispatchers interact with many different state and federal agencies including: BLM, USFS, BIA, AZDPS, UHP, NPS (three parks and one rec area), State Parks, Wildlife (Arizona and Utah), Coconino County, Mohave County, Fredonia Marshal, Big Water Marshal, KCPD, KCSO, and multiple local and federal fire NS and EMS agencies and dispatch centers.

Kane County Dispatch is of enormous import to all of us! But not just us, we have that whole tourist thing going on as well! Millions of visitors travel through our community and county to go to Lake Powell, Bryce Canyon, Zion and Grand Canyon North Rim, and the National Monuments and Recreation areas.

Owens said the addition of text to 911 will add a whole other element to emergency service in remote areas of southern Utah. “The first being that texting is probably the main mode of communication anymore. And in remote locations like here, the voice requires a much stronger cell signal than a text. Texts will often go through, when a call will not,” said Owens.

It’s also advantageous in a dangerous situation when an individual may not be able to call for help, texting would allow them to contact emergency dispatch silently. It is also a blessing for the hearing impaired, since it is faster and more efficient than using IP relay services.

“We submitted our grant application along with the other counties, and were fortunate to be chosen,” said Kane County Sheriff Tracy Glover. “With this new emergency dispatching equipment, we’ll be as good as anyone in the country. I thank Dave Owens and staff for the terrific job they’ve done tackling this enormous project. They’ve actually accomplished it faster than expected. The text to 911 capability will really be an asset in some emergencies.”

Cameras have been installed in some public areas such as schools, parks and community buildings to enhance public safety. The images are displayed on different monitors in dispatch. Owens said they aren’t continually monitoring them, but rather provide a video reference in an emergency.

Owens and Kane County Dispatch say even with all the new technology, 911 voice calls are still the preferred emergency outreach. Anxiety, extenuating circumstances and background surroundings can better be assessed by dispatch if there’s audio.

All wireless carriers are required by the FCC to deliver emergency texts to 911 call centers. If a 911 call center requests the text to 911 technology, area providers are required to make the service available to that area within six months.


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