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Friday, May 6, 2016

Monett 911 expands resources

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Monett 911 Advisory Board listened to a report on the expansion of services by the Monett Police Department communications department at the boards quarterly meeting.

Karen Brown, 911 communications supervisor and emergency management specialist, said the department added the Intermediate Response Information System (IRIS), a product of TechRadium Inc., last year. The IRIS system replaces the former phone tree, which used four phone lines to send emergency messages, such as flood alerts.

The old system could take around 30 minutes to call over 100 persons. The IRIS system sends out the same number of calls in voice, email or text messages simultaneously, covering the list in five minutes. Brown said the program can transfer a voice message into text.

IRIS allows groupings of recipients, such as police or firefighters, and will send messages to targeted groups only. The system is used twice each month, even for general messages. Monett city crews helping with the Joplin tornado rescue effort received staging instructions through IRIS.

Brown said IRIS was used 40 times in 2011, beginning in April, and has been used 16 times in 2012. Bonnie Witt-Schulte, Monett emergency management director, said businesses and factories receiving alerts through IRIS love the system.

Advisory board members asked if Monett has an all-clear for its storm siren alerts. Brown said the alert remains active as long as sirens sound. A message telling residents about the all-clear could be added to the IRIS alerts, she added.

Witt-Schulte reported the city of Verona has asked to meet with Monett officials about transferring their dispatching from Lawrence County. Numbers were being developed to determine the cost.

Annual report

Brown provided details from a 20-page comprehensive annual report on all the operations at the communications center.

The service handled 3,684 911 calls during 2011. Of those, 89 percent involved incidents taking place inside the city limits. Remaining 911 calls were split between the two counties, with 208 coming from Lawrence County, 168 from Barry County, five from Newton County and 10 from other jurisdictions.

The computer-aided dispatching system received 19,728 calls to respond to incidents during 2011. Law enforcement represented 13,043 calls. Medical calls represented the next highest number with 2,500, followed by 1,782 maintenance and test calls and 1,528 calls for animal control and livestock.

"We have a lot more pursuits of dogs than people in Monett," said Police Chief Tim Schweder.

Traffic stops represented the single largest type of call, totaling 3,106 calls during the year or 16 percent of the total.

Dispatchers also handled 692 non-incident calls. Officers were called 359 times to respond to someone walking into the Justice Center for assistance, the largest single category.

The 911 service cost $94,110 to run. Revenue from charges on land-line phones and dispatching fees to different services covered $48,300 of that expense.

Operational issues

The audit of the 911 system's database by OnPoint has begun, according to Witt-Schulte. After many months of blocking the process, AT&T allowed access to the numbers used to charge the city for the service. OnPoint's review will confirm all the numbers are active and represent customers requiring 911 service.

Monett dispatchers participated in 377 hours of training during 2011, though no state law requires ongoing instruction. A new "six-minute training" strategy has been added, providing quick refreshers in 16 areas. Dispatchers had 23 hours of six-minute classes during the past year.

Shift leader Shasta Schmidt was recognized for developing a "911 for Kids" program geared toward daycare and preschool aged children. A phone simulator is used to show how to make calls. A game show format also helps teach when and how to call for help. Schmidt took her program to five locations where 178 children used it.

State legislators were again talking about instituting a one-10th of a cent sales tax to pay for 911. Witt-Schulte said the latest plan would subtract the amount from county sales tax income.

Witt-Schulte said the limited value of consolidating 911 centers was discussed at the joint meeting of the Missouri Chapter of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials and the Missouri National Emergency Number Association. In the Kansas City area, it cost $5 million to run three dispatching centers, pooling the resources of a number of consortiums. After consolidation, running the centers cost $8 million.

Witt-Schulte said the expense came from merging systems from different phone companies. Circumstances can alter the way operations systems interact with each other. After the May 22, 2011, tornado in Joplin, Witt-Schulte said the dispatching centers for Joplin and for Jasper County found new ways to work together and now represent a model for cooperation.

With the addition of an official storm shelter at Monett Elementary School, notification went out to all residents within a specific distance of the shelter's availability.

Fire Chief Tom Jones said the shelter will hold 1,200 people. Firemen have protocols in place for gaining access to the shelter if school representatives are not available in an emergency situation, Jones added.

The 911 Advisory Board will hold its next quarterly meeting on June 20.

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