Insights into how 911 operations were exchanged last week when Monett and Barry County Emergency Services staff sat down to review details of the plane crash exercise at the Monett Municipal Airport held on Oct. 9.
David Compton, Barry County emergency management director, who participated in the drill, went with Bonnie Witt-Schulte, Monett emergency management director and dispatching supervisor, to review the scenario with new Barry County 911 Director Mike Phillips and Pat Blevins, operations manager.
One of the main concerns voiced by organizers of the drill was that three minutes passed between the first 911 call made to Barry County and the second call.
"We found the initial 911 call went to Newton County instead of going to Cassville," Compton said. "That's why they didn't respond."
The second call, made three minutes later, went to a seven-digit administrative line. Monett dispatchers said they had hoped the caller could be patched through to Monett dispatchers to give an on-the-scene account. Compton said the administrative line call probably could not have been transferred into the 911 system.
"This is a take-home message for all the people in the county," Compton said. "Any time you live within five to 10 miles of a county line, your call could potentially get to another dispatch center. Shell Knob people often get 911 calls sent to Carroll County, Ark. In Pleasant Ridge, they can get Barry County or Lawrence County.
"It's very important to know where you are when making a 911 call," Compton said, "and always tell the dispatcher where you are."
Discussions focused on how to improve communication between the dispatching centers. Compton said the Barry County leaders were aware the exercise was taking place but were not sure what their role would be.
"We were very encouraged by the entire conversation," Compton said. "Both centers and the emergency management office are putting new policies and procedures in place to avoid problems. We want to develop plans and policies to respond to these and other events. We're looking at ways to work with each other."
Compton plans to draft a written policy detailing the kind of situations about which he would like to be informed. In turn he plans to find out in what cases Barry County would like to know about where the emergency management office may be informed first.
"Their primary concern was that they didn't get the call and find out what happened," Compton said. "The other was they wanted to make sure that if there was an issue, they could identify and correct it. They want to be able to serve the 911 customers the way they should."
The Monett and county dispatching leaders agreed to hold quarterly meetings in the future.
"That's a huge change from the past administration," Compton said. "Everybody walked away from the meeting feeling we made a lot of progress."