911 Network Going Digital - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

8/8/08

911 Network Going Digital

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As you've probably heard by now, TV stations will be switching to a digital signal in February. But that's not the only thing going digital - so is our emergency response system.

Three numbers everyone knows to dial when in need of help are 911.  New software to update the nationwide network and essentially decrease response time will be released next month, and Lubbock is ready for the update. 

The nationwide 911 network runs on an analog system, and has since 911 began. But that will soon change. "When 911 was first implemented 40 years ago, no one ever thought we would be carrying telephones in our pockets and our purses.  Everyone thought that telephone was going to be a landline tool and that we would never migrate past that," said Lubbock Emergency Communication District Executive Director Michael Grossie. 

One benefit of turning to the digital network is that a 911 call can be transferred to both EMS and the fire department at the same time. "Next generation will allow us to be able to take all those calls nakedly without being converted.  They will be able to come directly in the 911 center in a digital format," said Grossie.   

Right now, when a 911 call comes in, it cannot be transferred to different departments at the same time. "There is a delay in us receiving the initial call and getting a confirmed address to notifying the fire department," said Lubbock EMS Communications Chief Renee Sandefur.    

Lubbock Fire Chief Rhea Cooper says every second counts. "When you're talking about an individual not breathing, there can be permanent brain damage if they do not breathe for about six to eight minutes," said Cooper.  

"Anytime that we can shave off seconds on our response time to a medical emergency, we're helping somebody.  I am excited about that because you know what, that fits our mission that's what we're here to do save lives," said Cooper. 

The Lubbock Emergency Communication District says the new digital system is way overdue, but Lubbock is not behind in getting the software. "Texas is well ahead of the curb we are going to be one of the first states that goes next generation 911 totally," said Grossie.   

The software is expected to be released next month and the Lubbock Emergency Communication District says funds are set aside in the budget to purchase starting October 1.

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