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Lackawanna County’s Emergency Services Department Activates State-Of-The Art Next Generation 9-1-1 Call Handling System

Lackawanna County continues to live-up to the slogan “Innovation Starts Here.”

Lackawanna County is the first County in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to place into service a fully integrated, Next Generation 9-1-1 call handling system for its Department of Emergency Services.

“Here is another piece of technology that we can offer to communicate up-to-the-minute details that will impact people’s lives.  It will allow residents to report any emergency incident, such as motor vehicle accidents, fires, natural disasters and medical emergencies,” said Commissioner Corey D. O’Brien.  “This will save valuable time and enable our Emergency Services staff to dispatch help or information quicker.”

“The Text to 9-1-1 program is another example of how Lackawanna County stands out as a leader in advanced technology.  This innovation is a tremendous addition to our Emergency Services Department because it offers a quick and easy way to report a major incident and get the necessary assistance to the crisis or medical situation,” explained Commissioner Jim Wansacz.

“The system is a tremendous addition to our emergency services programming,” said Commissioner Patrick M. O’Malley.  “It gives us the ability to receive vital emergency information that can help us to save lives and provide assistance quickly.”

“By implementing end-to-end, NextGen 9-1-1 ready solutions and integrating text and voice call handling, we immediately begin to improve our call-handling capabilities, streamline operations and speed up emergency response,” said David M. Hahn, Director of the Lackawanna County Department of Emergency Services. “We are dedicated to the advancement of 9-1-1 in Lackawanna County to better serve our more than 214,000 residents.”

The call handling solution will offer superior 911 call handling, more efficient workflow management, and new capacities such as Text to 9-1-1.  It is highly reliable and streamlines voice and data operations. Lackawanna County will achieve greater efficiency and have the ability to receive text messages, which can be an essential lifeline in situations where a voice call cannot be made safely.  This is especially significant when the caller cannot communicate verbally, such as the case of residents that are hard of hearing, deaf, or speech-impaired.  Text to 9-1-1 could also assist in situations when a caller is either injured and unable to speak or when a crime is in progress and cannot talk.

Mr. Hahn stressed that even though Text to 9-1-1 is available, the best way to contact Emergency Services is still via voice communications.

The directions on how to Text to 9-1-1 in an emergency are as follows:

  • Enter the numbers “911″ in the “To” field.
    • The first text message to 911 should be brief, concise and contain in simple words the location of the emergency and type of help needed.
  • Push the “Send” button.
  • Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 911 call taker.
  • Abbreviations should not be used.

A few important guidelines should be noted to those using Text to 9-1-1.

  • Text location information is not equal to current location technology.
  • As with all text messages, 911 messages can take longer to receive and can get out of order.
  • Text-to-9-1-1 is not available when you are roaming.
  • A text or data plan is required to place a Text to 9-1-1
    • If texting to 911 is not available in your area or is temporarily unavailable, a message will be sent telling the individual to contact 911 by other means.
  • Photos and videos cannot be sent to 911 at the present time.
    • Text to 9-1-1 cannot include more than one person.
  • As always, the public is encouraged to never text and drive!

Mr. Hahn stressed that Text to 9-1-1 is for emergency calls only, and text messages are handled as if they were voice calls.  They are recorded, logged, and maintained for months. Once the 911 system is activated via Text to 9-1-1, subscriber information, GPS location and phone number are logged in.  A crank or a false text message is handled as if it were a false or crank voice call.  Police will be contacted to investigate.

New 911 Simulcast System For Police Calls Is Up & Running

A cost-efficient, state-of-the-art broadband network, providing law enforcement with greater reach and crisp, clear communications is up and running in Lackawanna County.

Commissioners Corey D. O’Brien, Jim Wansacz and Patrick M. O’Malley announced that the 911 analog conventional three-channel simulcast system for the police radio calls is live.

“This radio system is a tremendous asset and upgrade for Lackawanna County. It has enhanced our public safety officers’ capabilities by providing radio service into areas that experienced transmission difficulties,” said Commissioner Jim Wansacz. “The new signal will not only help to save lives, but also provide vital services much faster and efficiently.”

“The new police radio system is a tremendous resource. It shows to businesses looking at our area and local, state and national authorities that we are on the cutting edge of technology by utilizing our wireless network to deliver this service,” explained Commissioner Corey D. O’Brien. “It is also saving the County thousands of dollars because we are no longer using telephone lines for radio transmissions.”

“This radio system is all about providing better service to the public in times of emergencies. It is about saving lives and getting information out to police so that they can do their job,” said Commissioner Patrick M. O’Malley.

David M. Hahn, Director of the County’s Department of Emergency Services, stated that this radio project has taken over two years to complete. The system was completed in late September and placed into service.

“All three County police channels were rebuilt from the ground up. We have added several strategically located radio sites in various locations throughout Lackawanna County to ensure radio service to all Police Departments in the County. We hope to do the same with the County’s Fire and EMS channels very soon,” Hahn noted.

The police radio project was funded by a $500,000 COPS grant, which could only be used for law enforcement related initiatives.

Three County police frequencies were rebuilt and new radios, receivers and more sites were incorporated. This undertaking has provided radio signals to hard-to-reach areas, enabling law enforcement officials to better assist the public and get back-up and other assistance quicker when needed.

The County’s wireless network plays a prominent role in this venture. The wireless system is used to communicate through the radios. No phone lines are used, saving the County money.

Lackawanna County’s 911 Center To Host Basic SKYWARN Spotter Course On March 5th

The National Weather Service office in Binghamton, NY, will offer a free, basic SKYWARN (weather spotters) training class on Wednesday, March 5, from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM at the Lackawanna County 911 Center, Jessup.

This class is for beginners or anybody that has a general interest in weather.  Previous training or equipment is not required.  The course will instruct volunteers on how to report severe weather to the National Weather Service.

The SKYWARN program is a nationwide initiative that provides real-time severe weather reports to the National Weather Service. Trained weather spotters are crucial to the National Weather Service for providing accurate, severe weather warnings which can save lives and property.

Space for the program is limited.  People can register or submit questions via email to bgm.skywarn@noaa.gov or call (607)-729-1597, EXT 4.  Information on this class and other programs in the area are listed on weather.gov/bgm or on Facebook.

The National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NOAA’s National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world.  Its mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment and to conserve and manage coastal and marine resources.