As mentioned on the website introductory page, Guthrie County is a member of this Regional entity. When counties were just beginning to develop E911 systems, there was concern that little counties with small numbers of people couldn’t afford to develop a 911 system. It was hoped that if counties worked together, hiring one consultant, and pooling resources that a system could be funded.
The system was originally funded by the passage of the $1.00 surcharge on each phone line in the County. Guthrie County had only a few thousand phone lines and therefore could generate little money. But with numerous counties together, a bigger pool of money was available. Cell phones, hand-held devices, computers and all other devices that can access 911 are also charged $1.00/month surcharge as of 2013. This money goes into a State pool and each county gets a portion of that fund as well. Over $425,000 in surcharge is currently being collected annually by the Region.
As mentioned on the website introduction, Iowa Methodist Medical Center through its rural development outreach program got nine counties together for talks on working together. Initially, six counties did decide to proceed. Through 28E agreements the six counties agreed to pool all surcharge money into this Regional entity. A twelve member Board was established to make all decisions and to spend the funds. Adams County joined later and there is now a fourteen member Board.
One consultant was hired and a common system was developed. But local autonomy was maintained by having each Sheriff’s Dept. be the answering point for that County. So nearly all calls within Guthrie County come to the Guthrie County Sheriff’s Dept. That provides for a much better system and at less cost than setting up one big regional command center.
The seven counties in the Regional system are: Guthrie, Adair, Madison, Union, Clarke, Taylor, and Adams (which joined after the project started). Decatur and Ringgold were originally in on the early discussions but chose to not participate. Although the seven counties vary in size, we all have a lot in common due to our primarily rural nature.
This philosophy has really proven quite successful. Pooling money allowed for the development of a good common system, the hiring of a professional data base manager, and providing good equipment and maintenance programs to keep the whole system running smoothly and accurately. This is an extremely expensive program to maintain due to the continual need to upgrade computer systems, monitor phone company data, and to keep track of all the paperwork involved.
Guthrie County’s two representatives on the fourteen-member Board are Stephen Patterson and Robert Kempf (Emergency Managment). The Board meets on the fourth Wednesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. at Creston at the Union Co. Emergency Management office (208 W Taylor St). The public is always encouraged to attend to learn more about the program.
During the latter half of 2013 and into 2014, a new $1.3 million system was installed. With the change in computer technology, upgrading of the State of Iowa to IP technology, and lots of new available software, a system such as this must be replaced at least every decade or else it loses its functionality. There were a number of bugs that had to be worked out in the new system as would be expected in such a complex seven-county area dealing with several dozen telephone companies. The mushrooming of compuer and hand-held devices accessing of 911 has really complicated matters as well. However, this new system provides a lot better accuracy in the ability of PSAP (Sheriff’s Department) to be able to locate a caller.
One thing to keep in mind that is VERY important: Because a 911 call goes through a LOT of telephone circuitry and because the system has to think to send the call to the right PSAP, there is a delay in 911. Keep in mind that when you dial 911 it will take 8-9 seconds for PSAP to receive the call and be able to answer you. Nine seconds can seem like forever in an emergency, but DO NOT HANG UP. The call will be answered.
The office for the Regional Board is in Bedford. Our data base manager/office manager is Diane Sefrit. If you have special questions or concerns, she can be reached at 712-523-3367. She serves full time to monitor the system, input all changes in addresses/phones, troubleshoot problems, deal with our equipment maintenance companies, etc. This involves a lot of time and an expertise in computer systems and programs. It is a full-time operation to keep the system operating properly and it would be very difficult for any individual county to provide such expertise alone. Even with seven counties together the amount of surcharge revenue generated is not very great compared to places like Polk, Story, or Pottawattamie Counties.