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Emergency dispatchers have had a busy first quarter with calls and new systems

It's been a busy first quarter in the Genesee County Emergency Dispatch Center.

There've been 6,476 calls to 9-1-1 and another 24,242 nonemergency phone calls, all while the Sheriff's Office grapples with the installation of a new communications system and new phone system. Dispatchers also now handle calls for the State Police in the county.

These points were covered during a departmental review by Sheriff Gary Maha and staff members during today's Public Service Committee meeting.

There have certainly been bugs in the new radio communication system being installed by Harris RF out of Rochester. Dropped signals, calls not being received, distorted transmissions, but all of these issues are being worked out, the Sheriff and staff members said.

A consultant from Colorado was in town last week and said when the system is working, it will be state-of-the-art, one of the best in the nation with nearly complete coverage of the county. But in the meantime -- largely because the county is under a tight deadline to get it up and running -- watching the process is "like watching sausage get made," Maha said.

"Normally these bugs are worked out ahead of time," said Steve Sharpe, director of emergency communication.

"He made me feel better," Maha added. "He said we'll get through this and it will work the way it should."

Dropped transmissions are down from 8 percent a month ago to less than 1 percent today, Sharpe said.

The system won't be fully functional until three new towers in the county are completed. Meanwhile, there will be constant tweaking.

Each new upgrade means transmitters must be re-tuned because with simulcasts, transmissions must be handled within a millisecond. If the timing is just that much off, it causes interference.

A firmware update by Harris meant all 1,700 of the county's radios (covering police and fire and highway departments) had to be re-programed. It takes from eight to 10 minutes to program each radio.

The Sheriff's Office has also had a busy quarter with prisoner transports. Because our county jail can't house female prisoners and the neighboring counties have run out of available female cells, deputies must transport prisoners to and from Wayne and Allegheny counties.

So far this year, there have been 465 transports consuming 750 man hours.

A transport now typically ties up a deputy for his entire eight-hour shift.

With the jail nearly fully staffed and an average of five fewer male inmates per day, the jail has spent $26,000 less on overtime so far this year compared to last year.

At Genesee Justice, grant funding is down, but the case load remains steady. There are 188 conditional discharge DWI cases, 119 victims receiving assistance, 183 violators on community service and 103 DWI convicts on interlock systems.

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