ELIZABETHTOWN — Bladen County officials have begun upgrades to their 911 Call Center that will allow it to receive videos, photos and texts messages.
“We are in the process of upgrading our 911 CAD system to be Next-Gen,” said Alisha Evans, Bladen County E-911 Systems administrator.
Once the upgrade is complete, Evans said the county’s 911 system will be able to receive videos, photos and text messages, but only if your wireless carrier provides such a service.
Evans said currently the county 911 Call Center has begun to receive text messages via its TTY and TTD service. She said county officials are not certain which carrier is currently providing the service as they are only able to receive the person’s name and number and a text only message. Evans added that the request has already been made with all the local cellular carriers to begin providing the text-to-911 service locally.
Evans said the county’s E-911 system had received a major overhaul with the installation of all new equipment about six years ago. This year, the county is in the process of changing vendors and upgrading software and some hardware. The cost for these changes is about $180,000 and comes from money raised from the 911 surcharge on cellular telephone bills.
She said there is a surcharge that appears each month on the bill and those funds are collected and turned over to the North Carolina 911 board. The board uses a formula based on the number of 911 calls a county receives and calculates a pro-rata share of the funds to be issued to each county.
Evans said Bladen County receives more than 59,061 calls to 911, but added that does not include duplicate calls regarding the same incident.
“We are projecting well over 100,000 calls per year,” said Evans.
Bladen County Manager Greg Martin said about two years ago, each county maintained its own fund for 911. He said there was disparity in what some counties were charging their citizens and a disparity in the level of services and accounts.
“The state has taken oversight and divides out (the 911 funds) on a pro-rata basis,” said Martin.
The state retains a percentage of the funds collected and uses them to set up and maintain a grant fund to which counties can also apply for funding for projects.
For example, Evans said the county is currently constructing an alternate E-911 call center at the Bladen County EMS building located at the Elizabethtown Airport. That project costs $300,000 and is paid for with a grant from that fund.
“The different entities charged different rates and they have tried to create uniformity,” said Martin.
Evans stressed that the NC 911 board is very strict with how funds can be spent.
“We are fortunate in that we have kept up with the times,” said Evans of the current E-911 Call Center.
Evans said there is no extra cost incurred with the Text-to-911 technology. She said the contract with the current vendor was ending and the staff felt a new vendor was a better fit for the citizens.
“The 911 board was telling us all along we needed to be looking at Next-Gen,” said Evans.
Instead of just adding one or two pieces to the current system, Evans said, “I want it to be one system.”
She said once the CAD upgrade is complete and the new vendor in place, the county system can receive videos, photos and texts.
“We’re already online for texts only,” said Evans.
She estimated it would be about six months for the new CAD to be installed. The new system will have a new mapping system as well as Text-to-911 capability, said Evans. The only thing remaining is the green light from the NC 911 Board.
“The installers are waiting for the NC 911 Board to tell them what functionality they want it (the new CAD system) to have,” said Evans.