New 911 system brings ease to dispatch center calls

Dispatcher Shane Parker answers calls on the new 911 system in Moody County. The middle screen on her right is part of the new technology installed through a federal grant from the state.

Moody County emergency responders are using a newly installed 911 dispatch system that brings some shortcuts to the process and connects with the digital world.
The Next Generation 911 was installed in Flandreau through contractor CenturyLink on Nov. 21 and was paid for with federal grant money to the South Dakota Department of Public Safety. The state received $1.5 million to upgrade the equipment and technology at its 28 public safety answering centers.
“They’re getting reliable equipment,” Sheriff Troy Wellman said of the dispatch center. “Before we had issues.”
The system, which is digital, internet and broadband based, eventually will let callers use texting and it makes transferring calls easier and faster, said Sheriff Troy Wellman. Texting, for example, would allow hearing impaired people to more easily communicate with dispatchers, he said. The system has pre-programmed buttons to transfer calls faster, including connecting with law enforcement in the field, he said.
“The features are probably a little bit expanded and user friendly,” he said. “I think it’s going to be more compatible with our phone system.”
The new system will allow Moody County to transfer calls more easily to bordering Minnesota towns, too, something that had been a complicated process with the old system.
The county’s four full-time and one part-time dispatchers answer hundreds of emergency calls each week for the sheriff’s office, Flandreau Police Department and the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe, along with assisting the South Dakota Highway Patrol as needed. Dispatchers also send out the Flandreau, Trent and Colman fire departments and Moody County Ambulance.
The last 911 upgrade in the county was in 2017. Moody County is one of the early Next Generation 911 system locations, Wellman said.
Reliable 911 services are important to public safety, said Terry Albers, Moody County Emergency Management director. The new service is being implemented so everyone in the state is on the same system, he said.

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