The new multimillion-dollar regional emergency dispatch center for Worcester and Leicester, Mass., includes more comfortable and airy workspaces for dispatchers and a $7 million digital transmitting system that will improve call quality and reduce communication dead zones, officials said. "These investments in our public safety infrastructure are some of the smartest money a city can spend," said Worcester City Manager Edward Augustus Jr.
The US Department of Transportation hit a milestone when 200,000 first responders nationwide completed the federal "Traffic Incident Management" program. The training helps first responders better protect themselves and others involved in a traffic accident investigation and cleanup.
Public safety answering points must have complete and accurate maps to complement efforts by the wireless communications industry and the government to improve 9-1-1 emergency location information, said David Simpson, the Federal Communications Commission's public safety chief. Incomplete and inaccurate maps can delay emergency responses and cost lives.
Washington state has 30 emergency-dispatcher positions that are unfilled, leading to voluntary and mandatory overtime shifts. A low pay rate and lack of qualified candidates are cited for the shortage.
Dispatchers in Claiborne, Tenn., were able to use Phase II location technology and GIS mapping to find a woman who was trapped inside her wrecked car, which was upside-down over an embankment, said Claiborne 9-1-1 executive director Roger Hager. Dispatchers were not immediately able to connect, but continued to narrow the search until an effort to rebid resulted in a bounce from the tower located by Phase I technology to a Phase II location, which helped pinpoint the car, Hager said.
The National Science Foundation has awarded grants totaling $1.7 million to Virginia Tech. About $900,000 will support research to promote unmanned systems that first responders use to assess environmental hazards, and $876,000 will go toward finding ways to restore transportation and power grids knocked out during disasters.