June 11, 2008 Edition

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Cell phone technology
added to 911 system

Leslie Ginn
Staff Writer

The Lawrence County 911 program is continuing progress to serve the community. The latest improvement to the 911 program, called Phase 2, which pinpoints the location of a wireless caller, is about to be implemented.

"I think it is a great addition for all citizens in the community," Lawrence County Sheriff Dan Ellison said.

"It will provide another dimension in our ability to serve in emergency situations."

The county implemented the original 911 call-tracking program in October of 1994. This provided the location and phone number in the communication center when an individual called 911 on a landline.

Phase 1 started in December of 2003. This allowed the communication center to receive and register a wireless call.

The communication center was moved into its own room in September 2005.

"It is anticipated that 911 Phase 2 will be completed this week," Peggy Miles, 911 coordinator, said.

"Phase 2 provides a great opportunity to find someone who is hurt or in need through the 911 system and locate their exact position," Ellison said.

Approval to implement Phase 2 was given in July 2007. Bids were accepted from several companies to provide centerline mapping and address pinpointing. A company located in North Little Rock, a.c.t. Geospatial, Inc. (or A.G.I.) received the job.

"(A.G.I.) drove all county roads, using GPS, to plot all coordinates and place (or pinpoint) each structure on the map exactly where it was," Miles said.

A digital map has many layers including aerials and fire districts. There were approximately 2,500 structures pinpointed in Lawrence County. The pinpointing allows wireless callers to call from anywhere in the county and the communication center team will be able to locate their exact position within a few feet.

"I am pleased with the details completed by A.G.I. They were very thorough. In talking to some of the other companies, I found that they would not have done the pinpointing, which is necessary to show an accurate location." Miles said.

The cost of centerline mapping totaled $41,925. Software provided by AT&T called Map Star was $23,200. The total amount, just over $65,000, will be completely covered by two grants.

The Arkansas Emergency Telephone Service Board performed a three-month study to determine the percentage of 911 calls made by a cell phone. In Lawrence County, there were 73 percent wireless 911 calls, so they provided a grant covering 73 percent of the total cost, or $45,062. A Homeland Security grant covered the remaining $20,062.

"As soon as AT&T sets up the software, which I understand will initially take no more than a half an hour, we will be up and running." Miles said.

Randolph and Lawrence counties will also share digital maps with each to better serve outlying areas, such as Imboden, where cell phones calls go to the wrong county because of wireless tower positioning.

"I believe this program is going to be a real asset for the county," Miles said. "We already have a tremendous communication center team. Now we can get the right information coming in so we can get the correct response going out."

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