E-911: We don’t
have it, county wants
Express Staff Writer
County voters on Nov. 5 will be asked if they want to support a program
that would charge regular telephone customers an ongoing $1 monthly fee
to pay for upgrading the county’s old-fashioned 911 emergency-dispatch
system to a more efficient system known as enhanced 911.
the ballot item will ask: "Shall the governing board of Blaine
County (Blaine County Commissioners) be authorized to institute a
telephone line user fee in an amount no greater than one dollar ($1.00)
per month to be used to fund an emergency telephone system, commonly
known as enhanced 911 (E-911) service?"
will ask whether individuals want to vote "yes" or
"no" on the proposal, with a "yes" vote being in
favor of the imposition of the monthly fee to go specifically toward the
E-911 upgrade and future maintenance of the system.
proposal was put forth by the Wood River/Sawtooth EMS Council, an
association of all law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services
in Blaine County and its cities. The initiative has received
endorsements from the city councils of Ketchum, Sun Valley, Hailey,
Bellevue and Carey.
County is the only county of its size in Idaho that does not have E-911.
of the EMS Council believe the growing population of the county,
shortfalls in the current system and problems coordinating the valley’s
multiple fire districts and law-enforcement agencies all combine to make
the upgrade a necessary investment.
existing 911 system—which includes two dispatch centers located in
Ketchum and Hailey—requires a dispatcher to get directly from the
caller all of the relevant information about an emergency being
reported, including the location of the incident.
call is interrupted or incorrect information is given, responders can be
delayed in getting to the scene.
enhanced 911 system would employ advanced technology that would, upon
the receipt of an emergency call, automatically provide the dispatcher
with the caller’s telephone number, address and a list of instructions
on how responders can reach the location. A map that pinpoints the
caller’s location and a message indicating the proper responding
agency would also appear on the dispatcher’s screen.
Council has estimated that the upgrade will cost approximately $440,000
to purchase and install, with additional ongoing costs for maintenance.
After the initial installation of the system is paid for, part of the
fee will likely go to future upgrades, possibly to integrate the system
with cell phones.
proposed system would be compatible with cell phones when the technology
becomes available, but would not serve cell-phone customers immediately.
Therefore, cell-phone customers would not initially be charged the fee.
would be assessed for each incoming telephone line a customer has, not
for each telephone a customer keeps.
have stated they would likely seek the full $1 fee for the first four or
five years, after which it could go down.
Harlig, chairman of the Wood River/Sawtooth EMS Council, said the group
has not selected a vendor and exact system. However, he has assured the
public that the system would be significantly smaller and different from
a much-publicized, problematic system in Ada County.
nine point nine percent of E-911 systems work perfectly well," he
said. "This is a life and death issue. E-911 is a service which we
don’t have, but we do need."
measure were passed, local phone-service provider Qwest would likely
initiate the fee during the February 2003 billing period and keep it in
place for an indefinite period of time. The EMS Council has estimated
the system could be activated by July 2004.
"yes" vote on the ballot measure would be in favor of E-911
being brought to Blaine County. A "no" vote would be against
E-911 and the imposition of the fee to pay for it.