Texoma prepares for statewide upgrades to 9-1-1 services

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
The Denison City Council approved $185,000 for new technology aimed at preparing the department for statewide upgrades to 9-1-1 service this fall.

Texoma cities, counties and other community partners are taking the final steps toward preparing for upcoming statewide 9-1-1 updates this fall. Representatives with the Texoma Council of Governments and partner cities said the region should be ready later this year for changes aimed at modernizing and standardizing emergency response across Texas.

Last week, the city of Denison approved a budget amendment related to the purchase of new communications equipment and software for police and fire dispatch. This marks the final regional partner to make the upgrades ahead of changes to next-generation 9-1-1 technology.

Later this fall, TCOG and other similar organizations across the state will roll over to a new Emergency Services IP Network, which will be standardized across the state. The cities of Sherman and Denison, which share the TCOG network, will be among the first home rule cities to make the transition as well.

Surrounded by multiple monitors each serving a different purpose, a dispatcher sits a station inside the communications center of the Denison Police Department Wednesday morning. The city brought their dispatchers under one roof in a new facility that began operations in October 2016.

The ESInet transition represents one aspect of what officials have called Next Generation 9-1-1, which includes upgrades in software and capabilities aimed at modern response and changing technology. The new system will allow for enhanced tracking of calls with heightened accuracy, along with the ability for residents to send text messages to 9-1-1 for service.

Eventually, the system will allow for the transfer of calls from various agencies across the state through the 9-1-1 system rather than department administration lines, TCOG 9-1-1 Program Manager Beth Eggar said.

Denison Police Lt. Christopher Nordoff said the current system used by DPD is based off of 9-1-1 systems from the 1960s that has been retrofitted and added onto over the years. While the system is still used today, it wasn't designed with modern use, such as wireless communications, in mind.

"It has a lot of technological limitations, such as, it doesn't have the ability of the text to 9-1-1," Nordoff noted that the new system will have this capability natively. "We use other programs to work around that instead of it being one specific program." 

A dispatcher sits at a station inside the communications center of the Denison Police Department Wednesday morning. The city brought their dispatchers under one roof in a new facility that began operations in October 2016.

Denison initially discussed the change over as a part of the current budget cycle, but held black from setting aside money until a more firm date for the transition was available. As a part of last week's meeting, the council agreed to a $185,000 budget amendment.

With Denison now on its way to adopting this new technology, Eggar said the region is on track to be ready for the change over.