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911 Is Online And Taking Calls

By John Emerson
WHITE LAKE — September 26, 2000 — Most Sullivan County residents were probably asleep when the county’s E-911 service went live at midnight yesterday, but at that moment, they became part of the 21st century.
“This is an historic day in the county’s history,” said Legislative Chairman Rusty Pomeroy at a news conference held at the 911 control center at the Sullivan County Airport in White Lake. “We unveil a system today that we hope you’ll never have to use.”
E-911’s history began in 1994, when the county board of supervisors hired consultant Kevin Karn to begin working on the development of the unified emergency response system. Six years of work by dozens of people, advisory groups, and organizations came to fruition when the system went live.
“This is going to cut police response time in half,” said Sheriff Daniel Hogue. “We have a good response time now, but with 911, it will be much better.”
Inside the E-911 center at the airport, dispatchers Jim Vooght and Sandra Barry sat at computer consoles, waiting to send appropriate equipment to the scene of an emergency. By a little bit before 11 a.m., the control center had fielded 24 calls under the new system, said chief dispatcher Chella Cavanagh.
To demonstrate the system, Rock Hill businessman Paul Walsh had one of his employees call 911. On one of the four video displays, the call was identified first as coming from Walsh’s business, Thompson Sanitation, at 48 Katrina Falls Road in Rock Hill. Vooght, who fielded the call, verified the telephone number and address while punching up additional information on another computer screen.
Instantly, the cross streets, Holiday Mountain Trail and Old Sackett Road, further localized the call.
“We don’t have it yet, but at some point, we’ll have a map that will give exact directions to the location of a call,” said Dave Kimmel, the county’s 911 director. “In the meantime, we really need everybody to work with us and stay on the line until the dispatcher can verify all the information.”
The system’s evolution was not without pain. Street names and addresses throughout the county were changed to ensure that each location had a unique address. The changes prompted some residents to complain and delay the implementation of the system. Eventually, the changes were negotiated, and the system was readied.
Pomeroy said by delaying the start, the county managed to avoid pitfalls that have plagued other counties that rushed their 911 system into service.
“I’d rather be late than turn the system on and not have it work,” he said. “This whole thing is designed to save lives.”
One thing that won’t go through the 911 system is calls from cellular phones. Those calls are directed to the closest State Police barracks.
But for the rest of county phone users, 911 is now the only number to call in an emergency.

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