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911 Center in final round of upgrades

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Greene County 911 Center, 25 Volunteer Drive, Cairo, switched over to a new computer-aided dispatch system in October. Greene County EMS will be recognized next month for their innovative use of this new system.
March 22, 2019 10:06 pm

CATSKILL — Greene County lawmakers approved a resolution Wednesday to purchase a new $111,000 voice recording system for the Greene County 911 Center.

The system records communications on all phone and radio lines at the center. It will be purchased from Eventide Inc. of Little Falls for $111,428.

Grant funds from the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services will cover $100,000 and the balance will be paid by Greene County Emergency Services.

“We are light years ahead of where we were,” Greene Emergency Medical Services Deputy Director Randy Ormerod said. “There have been a lot of advancements in the last four years. It’s mind-blowing to me.”

The voice-recording purchase marks the latest and final upgrade to the 911 Center, Ormerod said.

“We started with the phones, then the radios and then the CAD (computer-aided dispatch) system,” he said.

The four-year endeavor cost approximately $2 million, with the CAD system at $1 million, the radio upgrade at $750,000, the phones at $500,000 and the voice recording system at $100,000.

“The 911 industry changes every day,” Ormerod said. “These upgrades brought the 911 center up to next-gen status.”

Greene Emergency Medical Services recently received a national award for its innovative use of the CAD system.

The software company behind the CAD system, Tyler Technologies, will honor Greene County and 32 other recipients at the 2019 Tyler Connect conference in Dallas from April 7-10.

The center’s existing voice recording system is about 15 years old, Ormerod said.

“It has reached the end of its life,” he said. “That is the main reason we are switching.”

The new system will have more capabilities including screen captures and video captures.

A screen capture will help to verify information, Ormerod said.

“The system will take snapshots of the dispatch console so we can check to make sure particular fields are filled in correctly,” he said.

By comparing the audio recording and the visual screen shot, dispatchers will be able to determine if an error was made when filling out the call log.

“We also have the ability to capture videos,” Ormerod said.

The new system can find the IP [internet protocol] address of building and traffic cameras and record, he said.

Greene County Sheriff Greg Seeley sees added security benefits from the new system, he said.

“It’s very vital to keeping the 911 center safe and for everyone in Greene County safe,” he said.

Texting to 911 is on the horizon, Ormerod said.

“Our new phone system is capable,” he said. “Our phone vendors are not 100 percent capable yet of sending texts to 911.”

Calls are sometimes directed to the wrong county based of off whatever cell tower they are near, Ormerod said.

“We receive calls from Columbia County and Albany County but we verify the address,” he said. “If they say they are on First Street in Hudson, we transfer them to Columbia County. If it’s text messaging, they are probably in serious need of help and probably have limited texting capabilities.”

Dispatchers need to be able to determine that the caller is in Greene County, Ormerod said.

The complexity of the new system offers more safeguards and opens the door to more rapid emergency responses, Seeley said, but he worries that all the moving parts could leave the system open to abuses.

“Even the calls that come in now, a lot of them aren’t emergencies,” he said. “911 is meant for emergencies only, not complaints about your neighbor’s dog barking. It wastes time and manpower.”

In some situations, texting can be useful, Seeley said.

“There are times when they may not have access or can’t get through,” he said. “I’m 100 percent for it if it’s for emergencies only. Any type of upgrade for security is to keep people safe in Greene County.”

Ormerod expects the equipment for the new system to be delivered within eight weeks, he said.

The center’s phone and radio vendors will have to come in and hook up to the new system, Ormerod said.

“Once everything is ready to go, it will be a complete sever [to the new system],” he said. “The old system will not be running concurrently.”