Salt Lake County leaders unveil new 911 system

Posted at 9:09 PM, Aug 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-02 23:21:28-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County leaders admit dispatch emergency workers aren’t armed with the right technology to get people help quickly. But they have a solution – a new 911 program.

At the Salt Lake Valley Emergency Communications Center (VECC), dispatchers talk to hundreds of people every day who are at their most vulnerable. Often times, they get frustrated when their calls get rerouted, putting their lives at risk.

“We're transferring , between all the different centers in this valley, about 10,000 calls a month,” said Scott Freitag, 911 Director for Salt Lake City.

With 80% of 911 calls made on cell phones, it’s crucial for dispatchers to have technology that can quickly link the public to emergency services.

On Tuesday, Salt Lake County leaders unveiled a new 911 system, called Computer Aided Dispatch or CAD.

If a 911 call comes into VECC, but the call should be handled by another dispatch system, dispatchers will stay on the line instead of transferring the call.

“We've experienced some real tragedies over the course of the last several years in which there have been difficulties with the dispatch system,” said Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder.

On such tragedy happened in 2014 when Kent Parker called 911 complaining of chest pain. He became impatient when dispatchers transferred his cell phone call from center to center. Parker eventually disconnected the call, thinking he was okay, but he died of a heart attack that evening.

“[It's] often times blamed on human factor. That is not accurate. The problem lies with the technology and the system,” said Winder.

With CAD, all call centers can share information without hanging up and starting over. The system will allow police and fire agencies to streamline resources when responding to an emergency.

“This also gives us the ability to dispatch closest units, which we kind of have now, but the system is not really set up with the mapping to do that,” said West Jordan Police Chief Doug Diamond.

The new program is expected to be online within the next 12 to 18 months. Until then, all public safety employees will be trained on the new software.