The Haines Borough is seeking a federal grant to purchase and install a new dispatch console that would improve response to 911 calls.
“Thank goodness I do not have to call 911 very often, and the one instance where I did have to call it, it was very frustrating, because the equipment is so old, and on that day there happened to be problems with it,” said Joanne Waterman of the Haines Borough Assembly. “It’s a very helpless feeling trying to get information through, and the dispatcher can’t hear you.”
The assembly on March 13 approved a resolution that authorized borough manager Mark Earnest to move forward with the process for the $70,000 grant.
Police have been working on the project for years, said chief Gary Lowe.
The project to remodel the police dispatch area and update the equipment has an estimated cost of $151,796, and a portion would come from the budget for capital improvements in fiscal year 2013, pending grant approval.
Lowe said the new dispatch console “is the biggest safety thing that we need in this community.” The current system is “antiquated,” he said.
“If we get a 911 call that comes in, and the phone is hung up or not answered, there are two things that can happen,” Lowe said. “One, we can push for a re-dial, and our dispatcher can try and contact that 911 caller. If they don’t get through, our only option is to call (Alaska Power and Telephone), and if it’s after hours, they have to call out a worker, who then has to come down to their office, check their phone numbers to try and find where that 911 call came from.”
He said AP&T charges $90 an hour for that service after hours, and many of the calls are misdials or from international numbers.
He said with the new system, “When the 911 call comes in, it pops up on the dispatcher’s computer - the address and the caller that’s (registered) on the phone.” Lowe said the console also allows for “reverse 911” calls, so dispatchers could call hundreds of phone numbers at once to share information on emergencies.
The rural development grant would come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.