Mo. emergency center installs new 911 technology

The previous outdated 911 and non-emergency telephone system has been updated to the Sentinel Patriot Enhanced 911 Telephone System


By Brennan David
Columbia Daily Tribune

Public Safety Joint Communications accomplished the first of its three priority projects today with the installation of a new telephone system meant to improve customer service and prepare the agency for technological advances.

The previous outdated 911 and non-emergency telephone system has been updated to the Sentinel Patriot Enhanced 911 Telephone System, a $598,000 installation that allows for better management of calls and aligns the agency for "next-generation 911."

The switch was recently cited as the agency's No. 1 priority by a committee working to reorganize the agency. Boone County Sheriff Dwayne Carey leads that committee, and he and other board members advised that the installation should be top priority because parts of the old system were becoming obsolete.

The most significant technological advance is the move from a copper-based system to an Internet protocol, or IP address.

"The next-generation 911 movement indicates that advances in technology will allow a 911 center like ours the capability to receive text messages or video from iPhones," said Joe Piper, joint communications interim manager. "That's why the switch from copper to IP is so significant."

With those applications, Piper said, a witness to a robbery might immediately forward a still image or a video of a suspect to joint communications, for example.

"My child is missing. Bam, there is the picture," Piper said of a parent's potential ability to share a photo with law enforcement.

While those are the applications of the future, the new system now allows joint communications the option of relocating to the Boone County Sheriff's Department in case of a natural or manmade disaster that might affect its current downtown location.

Though the Armory on Ash Street has been designated as a potential alternative location, Piper said, that building's historical nature limits the agency's use. "You can't attach an antenna to a historic building," he said.

Callers will immediately notice some changes. A voice recording on the non-emergency number will direct callers to their desired location instead of a call-taker, which frees workers to perform other duties.

Callers to 911 might hear a recording if a call-taker is busy answering other calls. The time it takes for the call-taker to answer will not change, Piper said, but instead of the phone continuing to ring, a message will acknowledge that the call is being received and direct the caller not to hang up.

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