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Next Generation 9-1-1 connects nine counties

The first 9-1-1 call made in the United States was on Feb. 16, 1968 in Alabama.

“Since that time Alabama has been a leader in 9-1-1 nationwide,” Coffee County 9-1-1 Chairman of the Board Charlie Webb told those attending a press conference held March 15 to introduce the new $1.8 million system that will digitally connect nine south Alabama counties.

History was made again Tuesday as representatives of 9-1-1 operations from the nine counties met to announce the Next Generation 9-1-1, an upgrade from an analog to a digital delivery of the 9-1-1 signals. “Again, Alabama is leading the way,” Webb said.

Participating counties are Coffee, Dale, Houston, Henry, Geneva, Crenshaw, Covington, Chilton and Butler Counties.

“We are one of the first with this new delivery system in the United States,” Webb said. “Basically what is happening is that we are cutting over from an analog delivery system to a digital delivery system,” added City of Enterprise 9-1-1 Director Lon Jones. “All of the counties within the communication district are coming together as one for economic reasons, but also for technical backup for each other.”

The system the counties are using was purchased from Motorola Emergency CallWorks, an Alabama based company, Jones said. “We need to reduce seconds in order for the most effective emergency service to be delivered.”

The Next Generation 9-1-1 system was installed in phases, beginning in 2012, Jones said. It is now operational in all nine counties. “Having this system means that where ever you are in the Wiregrass area, you will have exactly the same 9-1-1 service in each and every county and city,” he added.

“You are going to get emergency services answered wherever you are,” he added. “The digital delivery of this system will allow us to have quicker response.”

That is true, said Webb. “If a town’s 9-1-1 system goes down, you won’t know its down because your 9-1-1 call will be answered by someone else on the system and the appropriate help can be sent right away.”

“What this means to the citizens of Dale County is a more manageable 9-1-1 system,” said Dale County 9-1-1 Director Larry Daniels, adding that he encourages the citizens of Dale County to come view the Dale County operation. “We have fantastic dispatchers,” Daniels said. “I am extremely proud of all our dispatchers and all they have accomplished throughout the years, to include the training on this system.”

Coffee County 9-1-1 Coordinator Marvin McIlwain agreed. “I cannot say enough about our dispatchers,” he said. “Our dispatchers are familiar with the system and I don’t think there are any dispatchers in this nine county system are not pleased with it.”

Having well-trained and well-qualified dispatchers mean a lot, McIlwain added. “If you have never sat in a dispatcher’s seat, you do not understand what 9-1-1 is all about.”

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