After nearly four years of planning, installation and waiting, Blaine County's Enhanced-911 system should be running live and at full speed this fall.
Known as E-911, the system, which draws on a variety of technologies to enhance emergency response throughout the county, would be the first of its kind in the state.
While the system is not yet fully operational, the infrastructure—lines and computer equipment—has been installed, and certain components are being used by dispatchers, such as the location of cell phone callers.
"It's actually quite a bit further along than people think," said Sgt. Jay Davis, of the Blaine County Sheriff's Office.
Once fully functional, E-911 will allow dispatchers to see the names, phone numbers and physical locations of every caller. All of that information, including a detailed map and X/Y coordinates of cell phone caller locations, will be displayed on dispatchers' computer screens.
The correct fire, law enforcement, or ambulance agency for that specified address will also be displayed. And using specific codes, dispatchers will be able to relay the exact nature of the emergency—and best transportation route to the scene—to the responders.
"The codes you would enter would identify the difference between a fender bender, an accident with fluid leakage or a multi-car injury accident," Davis said.
Gene Ramsey, Blaine County chief deputy sheriff, said dispatchers are in a state of transition.
"There are a lot of changes helping them do their jobs better now, but they're also looking toward the end," Ramsey said. "It will really help them to have everything there."
Ramsey said the sheriff's office is still updating the automated name and location index databases. Known as ANI/ALI, those programs will allow dispatchers to see the exact locations of landline callers.
Ramsey said the database needs updating to make sure the physical locations and phone numbers of county citizens are accurate and up to date.
"Once we get that finished, it will take a couple weeks to get it loaded and tested," Ramsey said.
That database will be incorporated into a computer aided dispatch program, which will be like the mother ship of the entire E-911 system.
Computer-aided dispatch, which will only enhance the overall system, should be fully operational by October, Ramsey said.
The E-911 upgrade has been funded through Department of Homeland Security and local citizens. For about two years, all phone users—both landline and cellular—have been paying a $1 monthly fee to help fund the project.
"It's one of those projects that everybody has had a hand in," Ramsey said. "All of the cities and county emergency response people have been working on this diligently, and they'll see it all pay off in a little bit.
"It's definitely a state of the art system."