E-911 phone system to get major overhaul
Hubbard County's E-911 system is a step above a tin can telephone.
It's a 10-year-old computer running Windows 95.
In computer terms, it's on life support.
Wednesday the Hubbard County Board of Commissioners voted to spend nearly $132,000 to overhaul the system.
"At some point soon they will not be supplying parts to fix it," said E-911 administrator Sherri Klasen.
"If the computer fails we cannot replace it because you cannot get Windows 95 computers anymore," she said.
"It's old. And if the computer would fail we wouldn't be able to get any downloads or mapping."
"It could be a disaster," said commissioner Dick Devine, voting to expend the funds.
Those monies will come from an E-911 fund that appears on your telephone bills as a tax.
The land line fund gathers around $5,500 a month. After expenses, about $4,500 goes directly to the fund, which is dedicated to just such expenditures.
The new system, with Internet Protocol instead of analog, will be compatible with any new radio system the county and surrounding agencies purchase.
Minnesota has mandated IP for emergency radio systems in the future, Klasen said, so Hubbard County would eventually have to convert.
"The current system could be updated but you're putting money into something that's gonna have to be replaced here shortly anyway," she said. "The state requirements are to be IP based."
The new software and database will offer the county more redundancy protection in case of failure.
"Our dispatch cannot get Caller ID with the current system," Klasen said.
"That's the only phone in the county that doesn't have Caller ID. And we do get some emergency calls on the non-emergency line."
If callers can't communicate where they're calling from, it can result in a longer response time.
Eventually the new software will be able to receive text messages for emergency help.
"A lot of times you can text when you can't make a cell phone call and they would be able to text emergencies or if it was someone who was deaf versus the actual TDD," she said.
TDD is telecommunications for the deaf through a phone line using a special computer. It could potentially save hearing-impaired people money to simply use a cell phone.
The 911 system will also eventually be able to accept video transmissions.
"You've got an accident scene where someone has a cell phone, they could actually send a video that someone could pass on to the ambulance," Klasen said. "They could see what the scene is before they actually got there."
The new software could be installed this summer, but likely not over the Fourth of July or other hectic times.
"The key thing is this thing is about ready to die," Klasen said. "Do we wait until it dies because then we're really in a bind."