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December 6, 2002

Hearing impaired could benefit from new police dispatch system

From: Sebastian Sun, FL - 06 Dec 2002

By Tony Judnich staff writer
December 6, 2002

People in Sebastian who call 911 next year will be connected right to city Police Department dispatchers, instead of dispatchers from the Indian River County Sheriff's Office.

The direct connection could lead to faster police responses, especially for the hearing impaired, Sebastian police Chief Jim Davis said.

Currently, Sheriff's Office dispatchers receive Sebastian's 911 calls. They dispatch the city's fire and medical calls to county firefighters and paramedics, while police calls are relayed to Sebastian dispatchers, who then pass caller information on to police officers.

But by April, the department should have an improved dispatch system, which will help pave the way for 911 calls to be answered directly in Sebastian by next fall, Davis said. Sebastian dispatchers will solely handle police calls, while most fire and medical calls will be relayed to the county, he said.

Six firms have submitted bids to provide and set up Sebastian's new dispatch system. Davis plans to recommend a firm to the Sebastian City Council at the council's Jan. 8 meeting.

The system will include a piece of equipment called a Telecommunications Device for the Deaf, which already is a part of the Sheriff's Office and Vero Beach Police Department dispatch systems.

The device is hooked up to a deaf person's phone and "works something like the old Teletype system," Davis said. "The deaf person can type a message to (Sebastian's device) to tell us what the problem is, and we can respond in the same manner, telling them someone is on the way."

Sebastian police officers typically respond to 911 police calls in five to seven minutes, but the new dispatch setup could cut two minutes off the handling time for many calls, Davis said.

"It might shave off even more time off" the response time to calls from deaf people, he said.

© 2002 - The E.W. Scripps Co.