Centre County upgrades 911 dispatch system

Centre County 911 services will enjoy a new computer-aided dispatch system with the contract approval Tuesday by the county commissioners.

The contract, between the county and New World Systems, of Detroit, includes the software, products and services, implementation, training and travel expenses to supply the county 911 services with the new CAD system.

“The current CAD — a system of software, hardware and mapping that assists the dispatchers in locating calls, managing calls and finding the closest and appropriate help in a timely basis — is old, and support is being discontinued by the vendor,” Emergency Communications Director Dale Neff said. “Since 2013, we’ve had a committee of 911 and GIS people from the county and people from Penn State trying to find the best CAD to replace the system.”

The contract totals $635,000, he said, with $507,296 in state funding, $704 in county funding and $127,000 in Penn State funding. The contract represents the final step in a four-stage plan to overhaul the county’s 911 system.

Neff also updated the board on Act 12 of 2015, a state legislative measure signed Monday that brings some changes to the funding of 911 services and broadens the access to these services.

When the law was enacted in 1990, land lines were the main technology used to call 911, he said. Once wireless devices entered the picture, funds stopped coming directly to the county.

A $1 surcharge collected from wireless devices went to a pool with the state Department of Revenue, he said. In order for a county to be reimbursed, an application had to be made justifying eligibility with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.

The newly signed bill increases the surcharge on all devices capable of reaching 911, he said. According to the bill, landline phones users will see a surcharge of $1.25 to $1.50, and wireless phone, prepaid wireless phone and Voice over Internet Protocol users will pay a $1 surcharge.

“This puts the funding of 911 back on the people who use it,” Neff said, “and not on the property owners.”

The new funding doesn’t go into effect until Aug. 1, he said, so the county shouldn’t expect to see increased funds until next year.

The law also changes the way temporary residences — hotels and motels — and large corporations reach 911 services, he said. Based on Kari’s Law — legislation enacted in Texas spurred by a child’s inability to directly reach 911 from a motel room without dialing nine first to reach an outside line — all temporary residences must now provide direct access to 911 if dialed.

For large corporations with “cubicle farms,” the new protocol will allow responders to know exactly where the caller is calling from within a building to allow a quicker response.