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Citizens, officials call for change to 911 system after Draper man’s death

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Posted at 6:26 PM, Feb 12, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-12 20:26:48-05

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah -- Salt Lake County's failure to agree on a consolidated 911 system is becoming an issue of public safety, but, because of the lack of agreement from local leaders, the push for the valley to be under one unified program is at a halt.

“I just can't believe you can call 911 and say you're having a heart attack and they don't show up,” said Alecia Dangerfield, a family friend of a Draper man who died in January.

The need for a unified 911 service in the Salt Lake Valley was highlighted by a recent case of a Draper man who died of a heart attack after his 911 call was routed to the wrong dispatch center.

“We should never spend precious seconds in a 911 call trying to determine what side of the street someone’s on or which jurisdiction they're in,” said Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.

Salt Lake County currently has three dispatch services on two different systems. Salt Lake City and the Unified Police Department use a Canadian-made program called VersaTerm. Valley Emergency Communications Center, or VECC, which is used by roughly 20 agencies, relies on a Utah-made computer system, called StillMan.

“You've got two organizations that have invested millions of dollars into two different systems, so those groups have to get together and say, 'This is the one we're going to use,'” said Scott Freitag, who is a Salt Lake City 911 Director.

The county has set aside $1.4 million to get all agencies on the same system. The questions are, who switches and who gets to keep their existing system? And at what cost as far as training and equipment?

“I think it's inexcusable that we do not have an integrated system today, especially when Salt Lake County on my watch put forward the money to make it happen,” McAdams said.

So the money might be there. But some local officials said the commitment isn't. Until then, the prognosis is more confusion with human lives at stake.

“It’s absolutely necessary that we get this fixed and we get it fixed now,” Freitag said.