The new Linn County E-911 service is not operational yet, but will soon be ready to serve the entire county.
Central dispatch in Marceline has been fitted with all new computer equipment and will have multiple dispatchers working simultaneously.
According to Linn County E-911 director Dan King, the service will be available to Linn County residents soon.
“We’ll have the service up and running as soon as possible,” King said. “We’re moving forward a lot faster now that I’m here.”
King sent out bids last month for the last pieces of equipment needed to make the service ready to use. The necessary equipment is radios and antennas for each emergency agency in Linn County, call recording equipment and computer aided dispatch. According to King the bids will come back May 24. Depending on how fast vendors can respond, the equipment could be installed later this summer or early this fall.
The current 911 system runs on older equipment; much of it has not been upgraded since 1994. 911 dispatch in Brookfield can receive addresses and caller ID only from landline calls. Cell phone calls made to dispatch do not provide addresses or caller ID. The new system would allow dispatchers to receive GPS data and caller ID on every call made to 911 regardless of where the call is placed.
According to King, this service will provide necessary information to dispatchers.
“The mapping we’re working on now would be able to pinpoint locations better than we’ve been able to in the past,” King said. “Before our responders even get there, (they) are going to have a ton of information about the caller.”
For Linn County E-911 chairman Jamie Stallo, it is an important upgrade.
“Currently, technology is what we don’t have,” Stallo said.
Linn County received 911 service in 1994. The funding for 911 originally came from a landline tariff on Linn County landline users. With many residents dropping landlines, the funding had trickled, according to Stallo. A half-cent sales tax was passed in 2012 to replace the landline tariff. The sales tax has paid for the central dispatch building and the upgrades made. It pays for 911 service as well.
Linn County E-911 purchased the central dispatch building from the City of Marceline in the summer of 2017 for $31,500. E-911 pays the City of Brookfield about $200,000 annually to keep the service running.
The Linn County E-911 board was appointed by the Linn County Commission in September 2012 to oversee the upgrades needed to the 911 service. The E-911 board hired King in March to look after the rest of the necessary upgrades. King is currently the only Linn County E-911 employee.
King moved from southeast Missouri to Linn County in March. King has experience working as a dispatcher and as a dispatch supervisor. King was a paramedic for 20 years prior to dispatching. He has had jobs with law enforcement as well. This is King’s first time working as a dispatch director. Since King started in April and has overseen the installation of the workstations and computer server at central dispatch.
911 dispatch in Brookfield has two workstations and at least one dispatcher working at all times. The dispatch fits in a small room inside the Brookfield Police Department and has five employees. Central dispatch in Marceline has four workstations and will have eight employees. There will be two dispatchers working at all times at central dispatch. King hopes to add text-to-911 and picture-to-911 when it is made available.
King says the new equipment would make the dispatchers’ jobs easier.
“We can patch responders into a call without having to change a channel. It makes coordinating easier,” King said. “When we get up and running I would put this system up against any other system in Missouri.”
The central dispatch building was formerly part of Marceline’s Saint Francis hospital. The building is hardened to FEMA standards and can withstand a tornado. The building features sleeping rooms for dispatchers, a kitchen and a full bathroom. The building has a large meeting room, which can be used as an operations center in case of a disaster in Linn County.
According to King it takes five to six months to become a certified dispatcher. There is an additional 40 hours of work to complete for the certification and another 16 hours of work to complete every three years. All current dispatchers are up to date on their certifications.
For King, a dispatcher will know within the first few calls if the job is right for them.
“I’ve seen emergency services workers and law enforcement officers try to dispatch and not be able to,” King said.
Linn County E-911 board meetings are every third Wednesday of the month at 5:30 p.m. at central dispatch located at 110 W. Ira St. Central dispatch has a website, www.linncounty911.com and a Facebook page.