Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

September 8, 2012

911 emergency — Upgrades continue in McDowell County

When an emergency occurs, a timely response from medical personnel can be the difference between a happy and a tragic ending. That’s why we are glad to see the latest upgrades to the McDowell County 911 Center.

Enhanced radio communications and a new mapping system will allow first responders in the county to reach people in need of help sooner, and often in situations when minutes count. The upgrades were unveiled last week during a meeting at the 911 center in Welch.

Another new tool at the 911 center is the computer-aided dispatch system or CAD that helps dispatchers better see the calls coming in and organize them better, according to 911 Director Teresa VanDyke. Aerial maps also help dispatchers identify structures and provides first responders with an actual description of their destinations while improved radios also shorten response times.

The new radio upgrades will also allow for better communications with the state’s new digital radio system.

Another project that’s underway is a mass notification system that will alert McDowell County residents about approaching danger. The system will send alerts on the Internet or by telephone, VanDyke said.

People can receive emergency notifications at home or their workplace. The 911 center is planning to launch a campaign to tell the public more about the new system once it is ready.

The new warning system is expected to be ready by the end of the year.

The mass notification system will be funded by a $66,975 Homeland Security Grant. A $44,951 Hazard Mitigation Grant Program grant will provide equipment for a communications trailer — a military surplus truck provided by a federal program.

And even beyond the new high-tech upgrades, simpler improvements at the 911 center — like new furniture — are helping to make a big difference for telecommunicators and dispatchers at the facility.

The new ergonomic desks actually rise electrically so dispatchers can work while standing if they want to do so. This ability helps them stay alert instead of having to sit for hours without a break, according to Vandke.

We applaud the 911 center, and its board of directors, for helping to make these all-important upgrades a reality. Seconds do truly count in an emergency. That’s why it is critical for the 911 center to have the most up to date technology available for dispatching emergency personnel.

 The 911 center upgrades are another positive development for McDowell County.

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