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April 23 • 07:43 AM
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Emergency service must keep pace with technology



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January 21, 2009
Editor's note: The following guest column was written by Victor A. Martin. Martin, who earned a bachelor's degree from Ferris State University, is a 26 year veteran of the Michigan State Police where he began his career as a trooper in 1977. His experience includes working as a trooper/dog handler, sergeant, lieutenant and ultimately Post Commander of the Lapeer and Bay City posts before retiring in October, 2003. He currently serves as the director of Lapeer County Central Dispatch, a position he's held since November 3, 2003.

Martin may be reached at (810) 667- 0217.

In 2000 the Lapeer County Central Dispatch Center received 30,033, 911 emergency calls. In 2008, we received 29,898, 911 emergency calls, but the biggest difference is how the 911 Center received those emergency calls. In 2000, 53% were from land lines and 47% were from cell calls, in 2008, 36% were from land lines and 62% from cell phones and 1% from Internet phones. This shows where our society is changing with technology and how it has affected our Center. The Center averages about 114,000 calls a year, between the emergency and non-emergency calls for service. The Center is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week including holidays.

There are three dispatchers on duty handling phone calls and dispatching nine police, 19 fire, 10 EMS and First Responder agencies that service Lapeer County citizens.

Our Center opened in 1997 and had one of the best analog radio systems for the time. Unfortunately, over the last 12 years, the radio system has grown out of date and parts are no longer made. Over the last several months, we have had failures and have been lucky enough to find parts. We have been advised that parts are becoming harder to find because everyone has changed over to digital signal. As you have seen with TVs, our radio systems will have to change over to digital also. We are looking at the least expensive and yet the best system to change to in the near future.

Over the Christmas and New Year's holiday we had a major failure of the microwave system, which links our three tower sites together. The system failed twice; once on December 23, and again on December 27. Each time the failure effectively halted our ability to communicate with the public safety agencies in Lapeer County. Fortunately, we were able to utilize the Michigan Public Safety Communications System digital radio system as a backup to maintain a small level of communication until our own system was repaired.

Repairs to the microwave system were completed on January 9. Since the microwave system is no longer covered under a service contract due to its age, we have had to pay a high cost on the parts needed to repair the system. We have also purchased spare parts to have on hand in the event another failure occurs.

With these failures of the radio system, it further illustrates the county's need to upgrade the 9-1-1 systems to replace aging, out-dated systems with current tech-nology and industry standards.

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