Texas county begins using 911 tech to communicate with responders faster

Grayson County began using Active 911, a program which simultaneously sends call information to all emergency department communication devices

By Drew Smith
Herald Democrat

GRAYSON COUNTY, Texas — In an effort to more quickly connect paramedics and firefighters with the information needed in response to emergency calls, Grayson County's dispatch center has adopted a new notification system meant to streamline the process and save precious time.

The Grayson County Sheriff's Office said its dispatch center recently began use of Active 911, a program which simultaneously sends call information to all of the emergency department's registered communication devices, including cellphones and other mobile devices.

"The benefit is that it will reduce the amount of time it takes for the information to come into dispatch and for the fire departments and EMS to receive the correct information," Capt. Sarah Bigham said Monday. "The ultimate goal is to reduce the response time. In an emergency, seconds count."

Bigham said the sheriff's office started looking into the technology several months ago in the hopes of replacing its previous system, which sometimes required placing separate phone calls and notifications to individual agency. The GCSO captain said the new program sends typed information about a call to devices and recipients and is also capable of sending maps and other files.

"It can go to land lines, tablets, Apple devices, Android devices — basically to any phone line-connected device," Bigham said. "Now the more capability that device has, the more information it can receive. And the system will adjust the information based on the type of device receiving it."

With Grayson County covering more than 900 square miles, Bigham said the 13 county-dispatched fire departments and EMS agencies are often asked to provide assistance on one another's calls. Bigham said prior to the use of Active 911, dispatchers on multi-agency calls were slowed by the time-consuming process of identifying and notifying the necessary personnel of each different department.

"We rely on a lot of mutual aid in Grayson County, because our fire districts are so large and we have so much area to cover," Bigham said. "So, instead of having to go down the list and make phone calls for each of the notifications, you can just hit a button and it will notify everybody on that list."

Bigham said while the county is optimistic the new technology will quicken response times, it remains imperative that 911 callers and witnesses be as detailed as possible when requesting emergency assistance.

"Still try to have as much information available as possible when reporting an emergency," Bigham said. "That includes your location and the different services that are needed so that we can get the information out to all the agencies who need it."

The project was completed with assistance from Grayson County's emergency dispatch center, information technology department and office of emergency management, as well as Shipman Communications and local fire and EMS departments. The Grayson County Dispatch Center handles an estimated 200-300 calls each day and fielded 56,000 calls in 2018.

Copyright 2019 Herald Democrat

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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