E-911 working out kinks

Lawton_The Comanche County and City of Lawton E-911 merger has had its share of problems, but the most recent seems to be a problem with response time in late night emergencies.  County law enforcement and firefighters say it's because there is only one dispatcher in the evenings, when there used to be two.

The Commissioner's board met Monday morning with local emergency response units to try to work it out - and, they have, to an extent.  The Director of the Communications Center hasn't hired another evening dispatcher, but has begun cross training the others.  When that's done, anyone should be able to do any job in the office - county or city.  But, local firefighters say it's not enough.  They want two, dedicated county dispatchers, 24/7.

The County Commissioner's meeting had a few more guests than usual because of the concern over how many dispatchers are handling emergency calls during the evening.  And, Cove Acres Fire Chief Matthew Eccles says it's a disaster waiting to happen.  "If something big were to happen, prime example of the fire - like what happened on Saturday - were to happen in the evening time or at night time, there would be shortage of dispatchers to handle the call," he says.

E-911 Supervisor Derrell Morgan says the need for dispatchers at night isn't very high, and that hiring more staff isn't the solution.  However, he says training existing dispatchers to perform all the jobs is.  "If an event happened in the middle of the night that would require us to throw another dispatcher on this side to help out, then we have the capability to do that - we have plenty of dispatchers to do it," Morgan says.  This is what they're doing.

Now, at night, if multiple emergencies hit the county, the dispatcher will contact one of the city dispatchers and have them help.  And, the layout of the center has the city's dispatch just ten feet from the county's console.  "The basic philosophy of this communication center is this:  that anybody be able to walk in, sit down at any position, whether it be a police position, a fire position, Lawton, Fort Sill, Comanche County position, and be able to work that position," says Morgan.

Chief Eccles says Morgan's idea is great, but he still thinks they should have more than one person working at any one same time.  "Basically, go back to the two dispatchers that we've had 24/7 when it was at the county."

Yet another hurdle is the computer systems.  The county uses one and the city another, but Morgan says they will all be using the same system by the end of 2008.