EMA considering $370,000 purchase

Friday, December 17, 2010

By this time next year, Lewisburg police, firefighters, an ambulance crew and other emergency responders to a factory fire should be able to look at floor plans of the burning building on a computer at the scene.

With a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system that's about to be purchased, rescue crews will know where to go immediately and what dangerous chemicals to avoid or douse first with foam, according to Lewisburg Police Chief Chuck Forbis.

He and Fire Chief Larry Williams serve on the county's 911 Board that met Wednesday morning at the county Emergency Management Agency office in the Hardison Annex where Emergency Management Director Bob Hopkins explained that the collection of that basic data for those building maps is to start in a few weeks.

"CKNA wanted to be first for the review," Hopkins said, adding that such basic information for emergency responders is an important step for industrial development during recessionary conditions here. "It's really a good thing for us to be associated with our industry because it's been tough out there" economically.

The Lewisburg Fire Department is working on site plans, Hopkins continued. While emergency responders need to know where hazardous materials are, proprietary information isn't necessary.

"If they have a particular process, they don't have to put their industrial secrets on the computer," Hopkins said to the men and women who will receive the information that is to be held in a 911 dispatch data bank as available in an emergency.

Purchase of the Computer Aided Dispatch system was authorized a couple of months ago, Forbis explained Thursday morning while reviewing decisions made during the Wednesday meeting led by Chairman Chris Gilbert.

The CAD system will cost $369,474, Forbis reported to the committee Wednesday adding that the price tag is somewhat lower than it had been as a result of negotiations with the vendor. Other savings are being sought for additional programs and equipment.

"We haven't signed the contract," Forbis said. "We're negotiating with the vendor on the contract language."

The CAD system might be compared to a Geographic Information System (GIS) computer's programming to display maps such as those used by property developers and county Property Assessor Linda Haislip who attends the 911 meetings.

David Gleason, a now-former consultant for the 911 board, recommended GIS training classes for some of the leaders who will be operating and overseeing the use of the CAD system.

The GIS training is in Little Rock, Ark., and Haislip was seen as an obvious person to be sent to the classes, according to discussion Wednesday at the EMA office. At least two others can go because of enrollment availability.

Meanwhile, the 911 Board is considering the idea of adding a couple of additional programs to the CAD system.

"When we requested proposals from vendors of CAD systems, we included two options," Forbis said. "One is the mobile client to have information going to and from police cars and fire trucks."

That's so emergency responders on the scene of a fire, crash, or other emergency could look at the maps from the CAD data bank. Otherwise, the information would be described to them by a dispatcher.

Another option that is available is the Automatic Vehicle Locator that would display the location of police cars, ambulances and fire trucks on a map at the dispatch station and on the vehicle computers.

That way, dispatchers would visually know what vehicle is closer to the emergency location.

The cost of the system to display maps on seven computers in cars or trucks is $43,391, Forbis said, citing seven vehicles as the example because the city has seven cars equipped with computers. The cost of the vehicle locator system is $8,071.

The chairman of the 911 Board recommended that the panel wait a month before voting on the additional programming. "I'd like to see a sheet (with comparisons) on it," Gilbert said.

He'd also like to know if emergency responders at Cornersville, Chapel Hill and at volunteer fire departments have the equipment, or might have it. There's also a monthly operational fee.

"With this amount of money," Gilbert said, "you don't want to just jump into it."

Local boards overseeing 911 services across the nation are funded by the fees on phone bills.

Also Wednesday, the board agreed to buy battery backup packs, at about $132 each, for computerized radio equipment, and a server.