Kent State implements new dispatch system

Sasha Parker

After more than 25 years of using the same technology, the Kent State Police Department has installed new dispatch systems that could save students’ lives in the case of an emergency.

“The only systems that have changed are the radio and phone systems,” said Matt Radigan, Kent State dispatcher and information supervisor. “When the systems cannot be repaired in a timely fashion, it’s time for an update.”

The new radio system was installed in November 2005. Before the new equipment, dispatchers were using large furniture console pieces for radio dispatch.

“The old system had lots of lights and buttons. It took up a lot of space,” Radigan said. “With this new technology, you can put the entire radio on a computer screen. It’s more user-friendly.”

The new phone system was installed last February. The system works by putting the phone functions on a touch screen panel.

Kent dispatchers were required to go through four hours of training to learn how to use the phone system.

“Previously, there was no technical phone training, so when you go from no training to four hours of training, it’s quite a jump,” Radigan said. “I wanted to make sure the dispatchers had a variety of training on the phone system.”

In October 2001, the Federal Communications Commission issued a mandate requiring all wireless carriers to be able to pinpoint locations for 911 dispatchers. This ties in with Phase II – a technology promoted by the FCC that enables cell phone users to make emergency calls. It also allows emergency medical dispatchers to locate the geographic position of the caller.

Upgrading the system makes Kent State Phase II compliant.

“With this new technology, we now have the appropriate equipment to handle Phase II calls,” Radigan said. “Obviously, this was a big concern for us because so many college students use cell phones before they’ll hook a phone up in their room.”

With the new phone system, wireless 911 calls can come in and the system plots the caller’s location on a computerized map using latitude and longitude coordinates.

“When you dial a 911 call, the computer will try to get GPS coordinates that will come through the system,” Radigan said. “Each cell phone tower is programmed to send calls to the nearest center, and each side of a tower can be programmed to dial a different center.”

There are six or seven Public Safety Answering Point centers in the county, Radigan said.

“If the PSAP dialed is busy, your call could leap-frog from tower to tower until it reaches one that isn’t.” Radigan said.

Currently, Kent State police dispatch is the only team in the county to be Phase II compliant; however, it may take two to three years before the team is able to accept Phase II calls.

In the meantime, all Phase II calls will come through the Portage County Sheriff’s Department.

The next step is for all answering points in the county to come together and decide who gets which towers, Radigan said. Then the county comes up with specific agreements with wireless service providers.

“The good thing about this is that Ohio is kind of last to come up with a plan for wireless 911, so the cell phone providers already have a blueprint to work off of,” Radigan said. “The bad thing about this is that Ohio is kind of last to come up with a plan for wireless 911.”

Contact general assignment reporter Sasha Parker at [email protected].