Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Collier's 911 System Turns 30

Collier County’s 911 system rolled out 30 years ago Thursday, forever changing local emergency response outcomes for the better.

Beginning Feb. 14, 1978, citizens facing an emergency in Collier County no longer had to call law enforcement, fire or ambulance agencies directly or be patched through with the help of an operator. The arrival of the 911 system locally meant quicker, more seamless response at a time when seconds can mean the difference between life and death.

As the county has grown, so has the 911 call volume. When the system debuted in Collier, dispatchers received an average of 25 calls for assistance per day. By 1994, 171 calls per day were coming in. And by 2007, an average of 411 people were calling 911 in Collier County each day.

While the number of calls is easy to calculate, the true value of the system is almost impossible to pinpoint. It’s measured in lifesaving awards earned by professionals like Angel Roche, a CCSO dispatcher who coached a husband as he administered CPR to his unconscious wife until help arrived, and Anayma Lockhart, who helped deliver a baby boy while working as a 911 dispatcher.

Technology and equipment used in Collier County 911 has also changed throughout the years. When the first calls were made, no identifying information was transmitted with the call. This sometimes made it very difficult for dispatchers to determine where to send help in emergencies. Today, location information and coordinates automatically appear on the dispatcher’s screen during 911 calls. In the future, links from cell-phone cameras and streaming video may help the dispatcher actually see what is happening at a scene and relay important details to public safety units.