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Emergency dispatch in line for upgrade by year’s end

The Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department will be armed withbetter communication and response capabilities than ever before,pending a complete revamping of the dispatch office by the end ofthe year.

LCSD Capt. Dustin Bairfield said the department is seeking newsoftware to power the office computers that will connect all theexisting systems.

“The upgrade we’re trying to do is to integrate everything towork together where our 911, CAD (computer-aided dispatch) callsand our mobile computers in patrol cars will all be on the samepage,” he said. “It should not only guarantee a quicker responsetime as far as information being passed along, but also ensure wewould have more accurate details and descriptions.”

Bairfield said the new software would allow informationtransmitted to the dispatch office through 911 calls to be passeddirectly to deputies’ in-car laptops, where the description wouldbe displayed in conjunction with a digital map of the county thatpinpoints the location of the call. He said the system wouldoperate like a detailed GPS (Global Positioning System).

The department has all of the components in place to make thesystem work, Bairfield said, but not the software necessary to makethose components communicate together. The harmonization processwas interrupted when a grant used to fund the multi-year upgradesexpired, he said.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a big upgrade, and Idon’t know if we’ve ever done a full upgrade,” Bairfield said. “In2000, we upgraded the radio system; in 2004, we upgraded the 911system and now, in 2008, we’re going to connect everythingtogether.”

Sheriff Steve Rushing said the upgrade for the dispatch officeis necessary because the software currently used is aging and, insome cases, incompatible. Technically, the current system stillworks, he said, but there are several different types of softwarein use that could make maintenance a lengthy and expensiveundertaking.

In some cases, the company that produced the software may nolonger provide service or may even be out of business.

“You can’t get upgrades for stuff like that anymore without justreplacing it,” Rushing said. “You don’t have service agreementsanymore, and some of it’s getting kind of obsolete.”

Rushing said the upgrade was still in its preliminary stages,with much shopping to be done. He said the department can choosebetween three or four different software providers whose productswould tweak the dispatch office in various ways, but whateverselection is made will have the capability to link the office’ssystems.

Since all of the software has similar capabilities, Rushingsaid, the main factor in the department’s browsing will be thequality of the provider and the type of service agreementsavailable.

Rushing said dispatch would suffer no downtime as the newsoftware is being brought online.

County Administrator David Fields said the cost of theforthcoming software and its installation will cost the countyabout $185,000. He said the county will cover the costs with ashort-term note – county supervisors are considering combining thecost of the upgrade with the bond issue taken out for theinstallation of the Lincoln County Public Library’s new roof.