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Updated aerial maps will speed emergency response March 12, 2011

Posted by Bahadir Sahin in English, Haber (News).
Tags: ,

Google Maps has nothing on the digital mapping systems used by the state’s emergency communications centers.

Counties across North Carolina have been implementing systems to better locate emergencies when a 911 call comes in, and thanks to a $12.3 million grant awarded to the city of Durham, all 100 counties will benefit from the same group of updated images this year.

The grant, funded by the N.C. 911 Board, allows counties with pre-existing mapping systems to update them with new digital images, and gives those counties without the systems the same technology the rest of the state is using for emergency calls. The grant was paid for by the added 60-cent emergency call surcharge to residents’ telephone bills.

The purpose of the digital mapping system is to piece together images of the state by county, and provide individual counties with images of their — and surrounding — counties. That way, when a 911 call is received, call centers are quickly able to pinpoint the site of the emergency and respond accordingly.

Dexter Brower, director of Alamance County Central Communications, said the grant came at the perfect time for Alamance County. Thanks to the funding, the county won’t have to take money out of its general budget to pay for the updates, which needed to be completed this year.

“It’s something we already have in place,” Brower said.

The updates are just being funded by the 911 Board and were completed as a statewide project instead of each county fending for itself.

“It was time for us to fly again,” said Brower, referring to the planes contracted by the county to take the aerial digital pictures. “(Updating images) is something that needs to be done every four to five years,” he said, and the last time images of Alamance County were taken was in 2005.

Brower said Alamance County Central Communications received the data — 59,000 aerial images of North Carolina — Tuesday. “We have it on hand,” he said, and the communications center will be looking at it this week.

The funding from the grant goes directly to each county, meaning money won’t pass through to the Burlington Police Department’s public safety answering point.

“We are, in Burlington, what’s known as a secondary PSAP (public safety answering point),” said Chip Ferguson, emergency communications director for the Burlington Police Department.

As such, 911 calls go directly to the primary PSAP (Central Communications) located in Graham, and is transferred to the call center in Burlington once it’s obvious the emergency is in Burlington.

Though funds don’t go directly to Burlington, the results of the funding will be available to Burlington police: the digital mapping images will be uploaded to the county Geographical Information System, which the call center at BPD can access.

“Everything that we have, (Burlington will) have it, too,” Brower said.



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