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County transitioning to 'next-gen' 911 system

Lee County 911 dispatch
Posted at 10:24 AM, Apr 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-14 05:52:57-04

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Lee County officials said Wednesday that city and county first responders are transitioning to a "next-generation" 911 emergency response system.

"At your fingertips, you have everybody waiting to help you to ensure your safety," explained Sheriff Carmine Marceno.

In the largest upgrade of technology in the county for 35 years, aging equipment will be replaced at every stage of the county's network.

There are three main enhancements to the system:

  • Automation – calls will be immediately routed to an available call taker, rather than waiting in a pool of callers. People who hang up can get an automatic callback.
  • Text-to-911 will be available to all public safety answering points, an extension of an upgrade that began several months ago. The system will enable real-time video streaming from the scene of an emergency and enable the ability to send photos.
  • Advanced location services - Locations from cell phones are still unreliable. This new feature allows the use of a GPS signal from a user's phone to pinpoint their location. It uses the same software as map apps on your phone. Officials say this will speed response to emergencies.

And how will it make these calls out to the public more efficient?

"We’re already out the chute really fast," said Amy Bollen with South Trail Fire Department. "I think the biggest one is having the correct resources — do you need one ambulance or two; do you need two fire trucks or different types of fire trucks that are out there."

Sheriff Marceno says videos can be sent to help show first responders what they are coming out to.

"[If] you're in a messy situation ... you have the ability to text. If God forbid, you are hiding in an area where you don’t want to openly come out and use that phone, you can sit there and take video and send that to us," said Marceno.

"Pictures are worth a thousand words," added Bolen. "Real images rather than someone’s point of view might give us a little more accurate information. Calling 911 is still the fastest way, the easiest way to get service, but to know the other options are out there for all different types of emergencies is very beneficial."

Charlotte County says they've had this technology since 2018 and Collier County since 2014.

Lee County transitioned to the new system Wednesday morning.