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Program To Speed 911 Calls Scrapped In Montgomery County

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It may take longer to reach Fire and EMS employees than many in Montgomery County would like.
CS Magor
It may take longer to reach Fire and EMS employees than many in Montgomery County would like.

911 calls in Montgomery County seeking fire and EMS help can get delayed up to 30 seconds because of how they're handled. Officials say it will be at least another three years before the problem can be fixed.

When a 911 call is placed in Montgomery County, a police department dispatcher answers the call. If the caller is requesting fire or EMS help, then that call is transferred to a fire department dispatcher, even though that person is in the same room at the call center.

The county thought it found a computer program to eliminate the transferring by the end of June this year, but software issues with the new program scuttled it. Fire chief Steve Lohr says this mean it's back to the drawing board.

"Both agencies — police and fire — had literally thousands of staff hours trying to make this new product work," Lohr says. "So it's regrettable that we couldn't get this software to work."

County council members, who got the full details this morning on why the program failed, used stronger words than regrettable. They're upset that training was wasted on a program they feel public safety leaders should have quickly seen wasn't going to work.

Councilman Phil Andrews says any new system isn't likely to be ready until 2016, when the overall dispatch network is upgraded. He fears a repeat of the same mistake.

"[It] has resulted in a lot of wasted time and expensive time," Andrews says. "So the goal remains to reduce response time for fire and rescue and medical emergencies, because 30 seconds is a lot of time in a medical emergency."

In particular, Andrews is angry that the contract with the vendor of the failed software didn't include a clause saying it had to reduce response times by a certain amount, meaning it's unlikely the county could get any of its money back.

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