Inside Opinion

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Tag: emergency dispatch

Oct.
15th

Proposition 1: A seamless, modern 911 system

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Suggestion: Read the article below, written by the Pierce County sheriff and a leader of the county’s fire commissioners.

Done? Now you know why The News Tribune’s editorial board is endorsing Proposition 1, which would enact a tenth-of-one-percent sales tax to create a seamless, countywide, all-digital 911 dispatch system. This would add a penny to a $10 purchase.

Proposition 1 would fix two big, interrelated problems that have long plagued the county’s police officers and firefighters – and the citizens who depend on them.

Problem One is the county’s fragmented, patchwork system of dispatch agencies. Many counties have one or two dispatch centers that handle all emergency calls: This creates greater efficiencies and economies, with modern GPS and digital mapping technologies letting dispatchers rapidly direct first responders to emergencies.

But turf wars among agencies and local jurisdictions have saddled Pierce County with an antiquated multiplicity of agencies and centers. Four separate “primary call centers” handle 911 calls, which in turn relay all fire and emergency medical calls to two additional centers run by fire departments.

Problem One led to Problem Two. Over the years, the fragmented agencies have bought different kinds of radio equipment – mostly analog systems that are now obsolete – that don’t always talk to each other and sometimes (in dead spots) don’t talk at all. Below, Paul Pastor and Larry Nelson spell out some of the tragic and near-tragic consequences.
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