REGISTER VIEWPOINT: Crossed wires on 911 and dispatch

A quick listen to the au
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

A quick listen to the audio recording of a 911 call last week will shatter doubts about the need for a combined dispatch system for Sandusky and Perkins Township.

A frantic, but clear, call was made concerning a shooting behind a business on the township side of Perkins Avenue. The caller made initial contact with emergency dispatch, stated the problem and the site where it happened. He was then routed to Sandusky dispatch. He again stated the problem and the address and was re-routed to Perkins dispatch. He again stated the specifics. His growing frustration was clear, but immediate response wasn't.

Anyone who lives or works in the jurisdictional limbo between Sandusky and Perkins or who drives that much-traveled route is at-risk because of the folly of the territorial divide.

While Perkins and Sandusky are fiercely possessive of their individual identities, when it comes to matters of emergency services, the imaginary wall down the center of Perkins Avenue must be broken down.

Faster dispatch likely would not have made a difference to the unfortunate victim this time, but one day jurisdictional differences may mean the difference between life and death.

That being said, we also realize dispatchers are constantly called upon to distinguish the difference between real emergencies and overwrought callers who use 911 as a go-to number when any police or EMS actions are called for. All the more reason seconds can't be lost on "who's in charge?"

And, if you're disturbed as we were by the routing and re-routing of this caller, consider this: The call was made from a cellular phone. If it had been made from a land line, the address would have popped up immediately, thereby making the trail unnecessary.

The money for a system that would handle cell phone calls in the same expeditious manner has been in place for a number of years. Bickering, procrastination, the inability to implement available technology and lack of communication with the provider have stalled Erie County's cellular 911 system for far too long.