FONDA — Montgomery County has received a $374,781 state grant that will be used to update systems and equipment used by the 911 dispatch center.
Montgomery County Sheriff Jeffery Smith on Monday said the county applies annually for the State Interoperable Communications Grant administered by the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to ensure emergency communication systems are kept up to date.
“The technology changes on a regular basis and we have to stay on top of things. It’s a daunting task at times, thankfully these grants help us,” Smith said.
The funding to Montgomery County was part of $45 million in state grants awarded to counties statewide to improve the operability of emergency communication systems recently announced by Gov. Kathy Hochul. The formula-based awards are funded through revenues from cellular surcharges.
“One of the keys to successful emergency response is a communications structure that all responders can depend on to relay important information and improve overall response activities,” Hochul said in a prepared statement.
Smith said this year’s grant will fully cover the cost of upgrading the consoles used in the 911 dispatch center and updating the database of aerial images covering the entire county that are used to provide detailed information to first responders.
The dispatch consoles include the hardware, software and backup systems used by dispatch staff to handle incoming calls 24 hours a day. The consoles must be upgraded every five years to ensure calls to the dispatch center run smoothly and the information can be effectively provided to first responders as needed, Smith said.
The dispatch center is responsible for answering all emergency and non-emergency calls for police, fire and ambulance services across Montgomery County and dispatching the necessary agencies to respond to emergencies. The dispatch center also receives calls for the Montgomery County Correctional Facility.
The county dispatch center receives approximately 190,000 calls each year, with roughly 43,000 of those calls for emergencies, according to Smith.
“The 911 center is the first line of defense when someone is in need of assistance. The dispatcher is the first one to answer. If their equipment is not working properly or is outdated, it causes major delays to the agencies that respond,” Smith said.
The county is currently undertaking related projects to update the computer-aided dispatch and phone systems at the call center through previous funding awards from the Public Safety Answering Point Grant Program administered by the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Service.
The latest emergency communications grant also will be used to update the EagleView pictometry system used by dispatchers to provide detailed information to first responders. New aerial images from across the county will be captured by EagleView to ensure the database is as accurate as possible.
Smith said dispatchers access the program during most calls for police, fire and ambulance to provide first responders a detailed description of the scene before arrival and any resources that may be of assistance.
“It allows our dispatchers to give detailed information to first responders like where the house is, if there is a long driveway or what the driveway is made of. It can measure distances like how far off the road the scene is, the height of buildings or how many buildings there are. It can also identify nearby water sources if there is a fire,” Smith said.
The county has long used the system to better inform first responders during calls for service, according to Smith, who said the database of aerial images is updated every three years.
Reach Ashley Onyon at [email protected] or @AshleyOnyon on Twitter.