Provo residents eager for the city to install a sophisticated emergency dispatching system can rest easy. Tuesday night city officials set aside initial funds for the development of the Enhanced 911 system.
In its weekly meeting the City Council appropriated $17,500 in the city's general fund to develop the E911 data base.That money comes from money collected through a 50-cent surcharge per residential phone line. That surcharge was placed on Provo residents' bills in September to finance the initial start-up cost.
The newly appropriated money will be used to build the data base used in the system. People will canvas neighborhoods to match phone numbers to addresses and to make sure a specific phone number is in Provo and not Orem.
That information will then go into the data base so that anytime a call is received, it will go to the correct service district. The system also provides an automatic read-out with the address.
All calls to the present 911 system go to the Orem Department of Public Safety. Dispatchers ask the nature of the problem and where the person is calling from, then relay the message to the correct police department.
Installation of E911, including the entire setup, will cost a little more than $600,000, said Provo Police Capt. Jerry Markling. Markling is chairman of the Council of Government's select committee on E911.
Initial one-time costs to implement the system will include approximately $150,000 per answering point and $171,469 for preparation of the data-base and line connections to the centers.
There will be three answering points, one in Provo, Orem and one in Utah County.
Continuing costs to lease and maintain the system will be approximately $14,000 per month, which will be paid for through a reduced surcharge - about 35 cents - on resident phone bills.
"It's a nominal cost," Markling said. "A $6 a year charge for a lifesaving service is simply what it boils down to."
Chief Swen Nielsen said it will be a couple years before the system is actually turned on, but once it is operating it will provide better service to residents.
"If you go out for an evening and you can get fire and medical services quickly without a mix-up, it gives you peace of mind," he said. "All you have to do is show your kids or the baby sitter how to use E911."
The system's primary advantage is that it provides dispatchers with an address when it may be impossible to get it from the caller.
Nielsen said in high-stress situations some people can't think clearly. Sometimes children are not sure of an address, sometimes there are language handicaps or sometimes it's not possible to speak. With E911 the dispatcher knows the person is in distress and will know where to send the apparatus.
"This will bring a much greater degree of emergency services to the city," Mayor Joe Jenkins said. "It will be a great benefit to the citizens."