E911 merge a success

Lawton_Until about a year ago, it may have been unclear to Comanche County residents just who they should call in an emergency. But soon, the City of Lawton and Comanche County Emergency Management came together under one roof at the City Hall Annex for the E-911 merger.

Officials say it took a while to integrate the two response teams and learn new software, but, a year later, emergency responders are pleased with the merger. Now, things are running smoothly. Although different areas of the call center take different types of calls, it's all on one network - directly connected to both city and county police. So, even though an incoming call could either be for city or county police, with the merged dispatch center it doesn't matter - they'll send either a Lawton Police Officer or Comanche County Sheriff's Deputy, whoever is faster.

The merger is a good thing for firefighters as well. Officials say dealing with larger fires is more efficient in recent months because they know what everyone else is doing - emergency responders know where they stand in response to a crisis - and, it provides a much safer atmosphere.

City and County Law Enforcement say that waiting two or three minutes for information is not good when they're in pursuit of a suspect. But, dispatchers all in the same room saves valuable time, and this merged dispatch center is just the first step. City officials are working with the Great Plains Technology Center to develop a new multi-purpose facility that will be the base for their communications systems, along with a training facility for dispatchers, police officers, and firefighters.

Emergency Management is also creating a reverse 911 system so officials can directly alert citizens about tornadoes, hazardous spills, or other disasters. They will be able to notify people by phone - either landline or cell phone. Dispatchers are also trained to talk those in emergencies through a crisis before an ambulance arrives. Lawton dispatchers have even talked people through delivering babies - all over the phone.

On Friday, the Police Chief, Fire Chief, and City Manager surprised two dispatchers with awards. Renata Morgan was named Telecommunicator of the Year, and Janina Webster was given an award for Emergency Communications Supervisor of the Year - she has been a dispatcher for 28 years.