Technology to help 911 dispatchers communicate

By Ethan Thomas

MILLCREEK, Utah — Decade-old communications issues between the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office and Valley Emergency Communications Center appear to finally be coming to a close.

In a news conference Wednesday, VECC leaders and the sheriff's office announced the launch of a partnership between the two dispatch centers through the use of technology that will enhance the ability of both centers to monitor their emergency operations.

“We believe we have achieved a goal that has been needed for over a decade,” Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder said.

Both VECC and the county believe that the new technology, which allows a bridge between the two communications centers, will have a significant positive impact on the residents of Salt Lake County. Prior to the development of the system, Winder said, communication between the two centers, for all intents and purposes, was isolated to phone and radio communication only.

VECC is a central dispatch center for nine different police departments, from West Valley City to Draper. The sheriff's office provides separate dispatch services for unincorporated areas such as Magna and Millcreek and contracted cities such as Taylorsville, Holladay and Riverton.

In the past, when someone in an area serviced by the sheriff's office called 911 and the call went to VECC, dispatchers would have to transfer the call to the sheriff's office. Such a step slowed down the process and also carried the risk of the call being dropped completely. With the new system, a call from one dispatch center can be immediately transferred to the other, along with the associated information regarding that call, which also eliminates the need for the caller to have to explain the emergency situation to two different people.

“Last night, we had 46 calls back and forth from VECC to the sheriff's office,” Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon said. “Forty-two of the calls were law-enforcement calls and four were medical, so we have proof that the system works, and we are thrilled to get these kinds of results.”

Another improvement was the development of a program that allows the organizations to map emergency activities throughout the valley as they happen.

On a digital map, dispatchers can monitor where their units are and where emergency calls are coming from. The majority of the money that paid for the new systems came from a federal grant, but Winder thanked Corroon for his efforts to help fund other associated costs that occurred throughout the process.

Copyright 2009 The Deseret News Publishing Co.

Read the original story here.