Mississippi County cellular 911 calls on the rise

By Keith Boles - bio | email feedback

BLYTHEVILLE, AR (KAIT) - More and more people are doing away with land lines. Which means many emergency calls are coming in on cell phones.

Mississippi County has seen a significant jump in such calls. But while cell phones can be convenient, they can dial up big problems... Especially for 9-1-1 operators.

The good side is you probably will have several calls in for an accident which gives the dispatcher lots of information.

However, if you are by yourself with something to report. Location, location, location can be an issue.

Sheriff's Dispatcher Brenda Wilbanks was trying to help a cell phone caller determine a location for a brush fire. Once location is set help is sent.

"We just sent the Fire Department out and then I'll notify the local police why the Fire Department's going out."

911 calls go to two separate call centers. The Sheriffs Dispatch and the Blytheville Police Dispatch.

911 Coordinator David Lendennie oversees both centers. "Blytheville is handling all the landline calls in the county plus the cell phone calls from Gosnell, Blytheville and the Osceola area.And the Sheriff's Department receives the remainder of the cell phone calls of the unincorporated areas of the county."

Both centers have 2 dispatchers round the clock. The Sheriffs' department also monitors jail security.

With increased cell use, calls increased as well.

Lendennie "That has grown to where we're getting over 36 Thousand cell phone and landline calls at both answering points."

With 78% cell use, pinpointing call locations has had to improve. Mapping software has made it easier, not perfect, just easier.

Sheriffs Dispatcher Kimberlee Skelton showed me a map of the county on the computer that shows a typical cell location.

"If we send our guys on a call sometimes they don't even know where it's at. So we'll type it in over here and tell them exactly how to get there."

Skelton went on to say that weather can really bring in the calls as well as keeping the center busy with outgoing traffic.

"Tornado season that's really bad because you've got to set off the tornado sirens in all the cities around here and then you've got the radio traffic, we've also got the AWIN which we haven't transferred over to yet and that's going off. And then you have this going off."

I asked Lendennie if consolidation of the two centers into one was a possibility. It's working well now he says.

"Each Law Enforcement agency likes to retain the control over their officers and the way they handle their calls so theirs no anticipated changes in that scenario right now. "

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