MOUNT VERNON — Athough Knox County residents who call 9-1-1 in an emergency next year will receive help from the same law enforcement, fire department or EMS personnel who currently serve and protect them, the system behind the scenes to bring that help to them is undergoing major changes.
The new Computer Aided Dispatch system, which will cost the county almost half a million dollars by the end of this year, will be installed in stages, according to the members of the 9-1-1 Board subcommittee who were given the task of selecting a new system for the county and Mount Vernon city dispatch centers.
Mount Vernon Police Capt. George Hartz, a member of the committee, said the vendor who created the system, EmergiTech, has begun training administrators; training for dispatchers, firefighters, police officers and sheriff’s deputies will soon follow.
Because an EmergiTech system has been used at the city dispatch center at the Mount Vernon Police Department for 10 years, Hartz said city dispatchers and Mount Vernon police officers do not require as much training as county personnel who would be working with the EmergiTech system for the first time.
Brian Hess, Knox County 9-1-1 coordinator, said 9-1-1 dispatchers would be given a week of training before the system is fully in place. Hess said the MVPD and Mount Vernon Fire Department will begin phasing into the new system first. County fire departments will follow.
The timeline for use of the new system depends on training schedules, as well as delivery and installation of the hardware and software components of the system.
“Jan. 1 is a realistic idea of a complete ‘go live’ date,” Hartz said.
In the meantime, the dispatch centers are using the existing software, with no problems anticipated during the transition.
MVFD Chief Shawn Christy, who also served on the selection committee, said there is a lot of work to do before the new system goes online.
Each fire department in the county will input data into the system about their equipment, maintenance, and inspection, and preplanning information about locations within their fire district.
The amount of information to be entered into the system will be extremely time consuming for department personnel, but worth the effort, according to Christy. Some departments have begun entering the information.
Once in use, the system will allow firefighters to pull up information on computer screens installed in the cabs of firetrucks.
“We can be checking the information before we even get there,” explained Christy. “It will give us more data at our disposal to be able to do our job more efficiently.”
Christy credited Hartz with working with EmergiTech to begin the data entry process ahead of time, to be ready for the January 1 launch date of the new system.
“He has worked a lot to help us start inputting this data now before it goes live,” Christy said. “This is the labor intensive end, but I think it’s going to be an invaluable resource for efficient dispatching.”
“There’s a time commitment to getting all of the information in,” Fredericktown EMS Chief Rick Lanuzza agreed. “But the more time they invest in it, I believe they will get more benefits and statistical information out of the system in the long run.”
Hess agreed, adding the $400,000-plus cost of the project needs to be interpreted in context with the number of years the system should serve the county.
“This is not something we are going to be purchasing again for many years as long as the departments are able to use the system and are satisfied with it,” he explained.
Hess said other than maintenance costs, which would be expected with any CAD system, the new system should not cost the county any major money in the foreseeable future. He said the money for maintenance will be available and pointed out the county budget already allows for 9-1-1 system hardware upgrades every seven years.
The overall goal of selecting and installing the new system is improving the safety of not only fire, EMS and law enforcement personnel, but the citizens they serve, Hess said.
“First responders are professionals and you can’t put a dollar amount on their safety or the safety they provide to county residents,” he said.