Local officials should be congratulated for the advanced planning that put Douglas County in a position to quickly extend emergency telephone services for wireless callers.
Applause for the Douglas County commissioners and other officials who were willing and ready to so quickly start providing enhanced 911 emergency service for wireless phones.
Commissioners agreed Monday to invest about $50,000 to buy equipment and computer software to implement the system, which will allow emergency dispatchers to trace the location of a wireless phone even if the caller is unable to provide that information. The county expects the new system to be up and running throughout the county within six months.
Dispatchers already have the ability to trace the source of land-line calls so that help can find a caller who is lost or incapacitated. Because nearly half of the calls that come into the center are from cellular phones, the need to expand the service is obvious. Jim Denney, the county's director of emergency communications, said his office had situations almost every day in which it would have helped to be able to locate the call. Not all of those calls are serious, but if only a few of the calls have serious consequences the system will be well worth the investment.
The final step to E-911 service is made possible by the Kansas Legislature's decision earlier this year to have wireless phone users also pay the 50 cents a month that land-line users already paid to finance the emergency system. Douglas County officials, however, deserve credit for planning ahead over the last several years by purchasing equipment that would handle the data required to switch to wireless E-911 service. Their foresight now will allow the county to expand the service more quickly and with less additional expense.
Denney previously had told commissioners that national statistics show that being able to trace the location of a caller makes a difference in about one in 1,000 calls. Douglas County dispatchers handle between 20,000 and 25,000 wireless calls a year, so the new system could have a significant benefit in 20 to 25 cases each year.
It's great to see this worthwhile service approaching reality. Congratulations to county officials for being prepared to act quickly to extend E-911 services and provide an extra measure of safety for everyone in Douglas County.