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New program to help 911 call takers strengthen SAFER

Matt Masters • Jul 9, 2018 at 7:25 PM

The Wilson County 911 Board on Monday announced a new emergency messaging system, discussed updates on the planned co-location of county dispatch services and elected new officers.

Sarah O’Connor, Wilson County 911 office manager and SAFER coordinator, announced a free service coming to 911 services called Enterprise Messaging Access Gateway, which will improve the services of SAFER, Special Advisory For Emergency Responders.

SAFER is a voluntary sign-up program that ties citizens’ cellphone numbers to their home address, information that is normally only available for landlines. Additional information such as date of birth, allergies and medical conditions can also be submitted to the 911 services so that operators and first responders are better able to assist callers.

Like SAFER, EMAG will enhance communication capabilities by allowing 911 services to more efficiently contact subscribers to SAFER to make sure that their information is up to date. Until now, it has been up to O’Connor to manually contact the more than 10,000 users of SAFER, meaning keeping information updated is a difficult task.

“I will reach out to those who have registered their cellphones, and they will get a text message from me, and basically it would just say, ‘Hey this is Sarah, contact me for your annual updates. We just want to make sure that everything is still the same,’” O’Connor said. “Right now, I have postcards.”

The state has a phone contract with Verizon that offered the program to 911 services for free because requirements were met for free access. The program is expected to improve efficiency within the SAFER program, to allow for emergency services to better serve the community.

According to Karen Moore, the director of Wilson County Emergency Communications District, the construction drawings on the planned co-location of 911, Wilson County and municipal dispatch services are underway, with a goal of mid-August for the next steps in the project.

Wilson County 911 Board officers were also elected. David Hale will remain chairman with vice chairman Terry Ashe and secretary and treasurer Jerry Taylor.

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