Thursday, March 9, 2006
 

Green returns as E911 director

By SUE WATSON
Staff Writer

Jimmye Dale Green was reappointed director of Marshall County Enhanced 911 last week by the 911 Commission, according to chairman Rodney Whaley.

Green replaces Irene Harris, who resigned as director last week, Whaley said. Harris took the appointment in March 2003.

Green retired in March 2003 as director of Marshall County E911, after serving at that post just over 12 years.

“He was the first person hired, in January 1992, to help organize the Marshall County 911 system,” Whaley said. “He was the first coordinator; he built the system and brought it on line.”

Green served 26 years in law enforcement prior to his first stint with 911. He worked 22 years as a Mississippi Highway Patrolman and was the elected sheriff of Marshall County from 1988-1992.

“We coaxed him back from retirement,” Whaley said.

Keeping abreast of technological changes in communications and equipment and finding the money to do that is a constant battle for 911 service providers, Whaley said.

“The latest application is the use of cell phones,” he said.

One of the first things a 911 dispatcher has to do after receiving an emergency call is get an accurate location of the emerging incident to give to emergency responders, fire departments, and law enforcement.

Land-line telephone systems are already connected to the address database and dispatchers immediately know where the caller is located, Whaley said.

With cell phone systems, identifying the location of the caller is possible, but Marshall County lacks the equipment to do that, he said.

“The next phase is to have Global Positioning System equipment where we can track a cell phone call,” he said. “It’s expensive and really complicated and requires a constant upgrading of radio and recording equipment.

“It takes some real careful budget planning.”

A second issue 911 service providers face is staffing.

“The staffing is a tremendous problem due to the rigorous demands of dispatching,” Whaley said. “Dispatchers work 12-hour shifts and encounter alternating periods of quiet and extreme busyness.

“It can change from quiet to chaos in a heartbeat,” Whaley said. “There are lives at stake.”

Compensating dispatchers for the rigorous work hours and for handling situations where lives are on the line is not easy, Whaley said.

“Dispatchers are hard to find and keep,” he said.

Budgets are always tight.

Marshall County E911 is staffed with 10 dispatchers. Two are on duty at all times and three dispatchers are on duty during peak hours, Whaley said.

“That needs to be increased, but due to budget constraints, 10 dispatchers are all we can pay at the moment,” he said.

Some of the operating money that pays for 911 service comes from telephone customers.

Whaley said it is easier to obtain collections that are gathered from land-line telephone providers, but more difficult to get collect funds from cell telephone providers.

So, funding for Marshall County E911 is decreasing because so many county residents are choosing cell phones and letting go of their land-line phone service.

The dollar Marshall County 911 would collect from residents who have purchased cell phones with say a Memphis area code goes to 911 service providers in the 901 area code Whaley said.

That means, Marshall County is losing dollars it should collect from cell phone customers, while those dollars go to another 911 service provider.

“It’s a big challenge to collect operating funds from individual cell phones and easier to collect from land line users,” Whaley said.

Correcting that funding problem will probably require state legislation, he said.

Green said he is looking forward to helping 911 solve some of the problems that come with challenging times.

“The growth and technology are the two biggest challenges we face,” he said. “Finding the funds to keep the technology current and serving the expanding population of the county are our two biggest challenges.”

911 Commissioners are Whaley, Hugh Hollowell, Joseph Ford, Von Autry, Dot Childress, Joe Winfield and Kenny Dickerson.

Commissioners are dispersed countywide. To provide suggestions or to voice concerns, check with any commissioner or call Green at 252-0001.


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