Poinsett County 911 System, Right On Target

HARRISBURG - In large mainly rural counties such as Poinsett, getting emergency help to a location can be complicated and take precious minutes.

Poinsett county's system has been updated with GPS and satellite photos can now locate emergency callers to within nearly ten feet.

Poinsett County Sheriff Larry Mills told me "Well back last year, we wanted to go to phase two of our 911 system. Which would enable us to pinpoint a location when someone would call and actually display that location on a map in front of the dispatchers."

Adding some new equipment and tying in to existing mapping software already in use in the county the 911 system was able to step up to the next phase of operation.

Mills, "We wanted to be able to pinpoint someone in the event of an emergency when they call. We've been at phase two for a while now and it's a really neat program and I think it can certainly save lives."

Basically the system works like this, you call in from a land line or cell phone and a map comes up in front of the dispatcher which usually includes an aerial photo. That aerial photo has an indicator that shows approximately where the call comes from within eight or ten feet.

We decided to give the 911 system a little test, on a map of Poinsett county I've marked a spot called "location x".  At the 911 center they had the same location but it's in an envelope so they have no idea where it is. What I did was send my photographer Chris Haag out and he called back on the 911 system and see how close it wound up being.

I showed the location to Chris and sent him on his way using maps and the GPS I have in my news car.

Inside the 911 center I asked Diana Moore a 911 dispatcher, if her system was up to the test.

"Have I given you any idea where location x is? No Sir, Are you up for the challenge? Yes sir, okay we'll see."

At location x Chris dials 911 and the test begins.

(Phone Beeps) "Poinsett county 911 what is your emergency?"

"This is Chris with KAIT and I'm not exactly sure where I'm located, can you locate me.?"

The location popped up on the screen, and then I revealed the map to Diana.

Me, "Here's location x so were right here, that's the location there, there's the ponds right there so yeah Poinsett counties updated 911 system is right on the money."

Poinsett county covers nearly 750 square miles and receives around 300 9-1-1 calls a month.

Other counties like Craighead have also adopted similar systems.