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911 center receives grant

Jamie Shumaker, information technology manager for Buckingham County, presented the Board of Supervisors with an updated $437,918.74 grant award for the county’s E911 Communications Center at the Nov. 13 board meeting. He also updated the supervisors on improvements being made to the facility and the services offered to the county.

“Good evening. About a year ago we presented to you guys a grant award of approximately $268,000 to upgrade the 911 center,” explained Shumaker to the board. “The board approved that grant and since then we have upgraded all of the call handling equipment and we are very close to having text-to-911 finished here in Buckingham, so that’s a big accomplishment for us.”

He continued, “During this process of doing this we worked with CenturyLink and AT&T and we are now able to create what is called a diversity path. A diversity path will allow two separate circuits to come into the courthouse area that will carry 911 calls. The idea behind this is if one path gets cut, the second path can be utilized immediately to alleviate any 911 calls being lost coming into our center. I’ve worked with the state on that and they have awarded us additional funding to cover the cost of the diversity path, so our new grant award letter that you have is $437,918.74, so that $437,000, I ask you guys to approve that grant so we can continue moving on with our 911 project.”

The board unanimously approved the update to the grant.

In an interview with The Herald, Shumaker cited that the NG911 (next generation 911) grant is a product of the PSAP (Primary Safety Answering Points) grant program administered by the Virginia 911 Services Board. The purpose of the program is to financially assist Virginia PSAPs with the purchase of equipment and services that support the continuity and enhancement of wireless E911.

Shumaker highlighted that the grant originally totalled $268,000, but the county received additional funding in order to help complete the aforementioned diversity path. He added that diversity path is not currently available for the Buckingham County E911 Communications Center to use, although paperwork has been submitted to begin the process.

He added that the text-to-911 service that the county is working toward is also a part of the NG911 project, which would give individuals the ability to send a text message in order to reach 911 emergency call takers from a mobile phone or other device in the event of an emergency.

“The new service will allow citizens who are deaf, hard of hearing, those who are unable to speak, or that may be in a situation where it is unsafe for them to speak, a way to contact 911 to request emergency services from police, fire or emergency medical services,” stated Shumaker.

He added, “The most important thing to know is that texting provides very limited location information, so the location and type of emergency needs to be sent in the first text to 911 telecommunicators.” According to Shumaker, text-to-911 services are predicted to be complete during the first quarter of 2020.

“The Commonwealth of Virginia has been working hard to complete this project and the funding allotted to the localities has given us the ability to move forward. Buckingham County is appreciative of the funding that has allowed us to upgrade our call handling equipment within dispatch as well as to provide the citizens with a new text-to-911 service in the near future.”