Frisco 911 call-back test a success
FRISCO – Chris Benson said she was alarmed when she learned only 63 percent of the test calls in the county’s new 911 system were actually delivered by a new program set up to warn citizens in times of emergency.
“Then I found out that’s about right,” the county’s communications center director said. “The company says that’s average.”
The new system, called the Emergency Preparedness Network (EPN) sends pre-recorded messages to citizens in specific geographic areas in the event of an emergency. It is designed to get information to a large number of people quickly, letting them know the nature of the emergency and what they should do.
The system will try each phone three times, with three minutes between each attempt. A call is considered complete when the line is picked up by a person or an answering machine.
Monday, 911 operators tested the new system in Frisco, sending test messages to 1,319 phones. Boulder-based Intrado, which established the EPN, obtained the phone numbers from Qwest. Phone numbers are kept confidential and were only provided to Intrado to set up the system.
Tuesday, emergency dispatchers almost launched an EPN to protect citizens during the arrest of a suicidal individual in Dillon Valley, Benson said, adding that the system will be important any time lives or property are in peril.
“The system is important because there needs to be a really fast way to reach a lot of people at the same time if we have, say, an evacuation due to wildfire or flooding,” Benson said. “It also puts many, many fire and law enforcement officers in the field knocking on doors to get an evacuation going. This is a major help to them. It make the process faster and smoother.”
The system can’t reach everyone, however.
Of the 842 test messages that couldn’t be delivered during Monday’s test, 450 phones didn’t pick up, 176 were modem or fax lines, 56 stayed busy throughout the test period, and 160 were either disconnected or had privacy features attached to them that the system couldn’t override.
Emergency 911 dispatchers were interested to learn that in Frisco alone, there are five Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDDs). Dispatchers are trained to address the emergency needs of deaf and hard-of-hearing citizens through the system. TDD systems enable a deaf person to type messages to 911 or Qwest phone operators.
The EPN cannot reach cell phones or numbers behind a PB or switchboard. In those cases, an emergency message would merely go as far as the switchboard operator, at which point it would be the responsibility of the switchboard location to disseminate the information to others.
The system went live to the entire county Tuesday, Benson said.
Jane Stebbins can be reached
at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or
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