GREENE COUNTY — While a neighboring county has jumped on the text-to-911 technology, Greene County appears to be in a wait-and-see mode with regards to the new system.
A federal mandate requires all cell phone companies to offer the text-to-911 by the end of 2014 and the big four — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — have already begun to offer the service. Montgomery County, along with Hamilton County (metro Cincinnati) and Geauga County (east of Cleveland) are among the early entrees using the new technology.
But according to Xenia Police Chief Randy Person, the city — which partners with Greene County, Bellbrook and Sugarcreek Township — is not ready for that.
“The state still operates a 911 system on old analog equipment,” Person said. “Our concern is if we early adopt … and the state comes out with their new digital network you may not be able to use the equipment you bought because it may not be compatible. We don’t want to jump too soon and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars that we will have to re-spend later. It’s like you’re paying for it twice.”
Person didn’t say he was against text-to-911 but with Next Generation 911 looming — which expands beyond the scope of dialing and texting to 911 — the time just isn’t right to make a move.
“We are actively watching it,” Person said. “We will move as soon as we think it’s prudent to move.”
Person added that Xenia has built up somewhat of a reserve of 911 funding monies so when it’s time to upgrade, it will be financially possible.
The Fairborn and Beavercreek Police Departments are also exploring possible options for using text-to-911 technology. Getting emergency information to dispatchers through text, video calling or via social media are all options that next generation 911 technology could support in the future.
“Obviously, technology is driving us in that direction,” said Fairborn Police Chief Terry Barlow, who believes there is definitely a place for this technology in the Fairborn community, “especially with the local university and an airbase that are so technologically advanced.”
“We are preparing to budget and begin evaluation of the Next Generation 911 Systems for installation and utilization in fiscal year 2016,” he said
While the technology is in the Beavercreek department’s budget for this year, Police Chief Dennis Evers said he wasn’t sure if the department would research it further this year or push it off until 2015.
Upgrading the current 911 system makes sense at this point, as Evers said the department’s current equipment is at the end of its life.
“We’re trying to stay ahead of the curve,” Evers said. “We don’t want to get behind it because then it’s so much more difficult to make the changes that are necessary. If we try to stay ahead of the technology or at least on par with it, we’ll have a better chance of facilitating it when we need to.”
Evers also said the department has had discussions about collaborating with Kettering and Centerville departments as they transition to next generation 911 platforms.
In response to a question about texting to 911 the newspaper received these comments on Facebook.
“It is a good way to spend a million d-o-l-l-a-r-s,” said David Buccalo. “Text that to them.”
“I think if we have a system that works, then where is the analysis to support spending additional money?” asked Debby Heinz.
“It will not be an option in the near future,” said Facebook user Mclements Clements. “As of this moment the state of Ohio is not ready to take this on. The infrastructure is not ready yet!”