Communications Editorial 6/27/2014

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 27, 2014

Communications improved by — communication

It sounded like a “lovefest” at the county’s emergency dispatch center Wednesday morning when company representatives of Tait radios and Avtec communication consoles gathered with county officials and emergency workers to cut the ribbon leading to the facility with state of the art equipment.

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It was a happy day also for Panola County taxpayers as that equipment (dispatcher consoles and first responder car radios and handhelds) was purchased at about $800,000 below the original state contract price, according to some estimates.

The system allows our local agencies and first responders the ability to communicate on the Mississippi Wireless Information Network (MSWIN) that was designed with a simple, straightforward objective: Get the right information to the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

The need for such a system was emphasized nationally after 9/11 and re-emphasized statewide during Katrina in 2005.

As simple as touching the console’s touch screen, dispatcher Cam Coker recently put the medical helicopter in touch with working deputy in charge at the scene. Coker said the learning curve was small for him and he would hate to go back to the old system.

Once programing is complete, the new system has the ability to give dispatchers the location of cell phones who call in emergencies and already gives locations of incoming land line calls. It allows all county agencies and first responders to talk to one another plus dispatchers have the ability to “patch” a connection to other agencies not in the MSWIN system.

And the physical aspect of the system is proving to be viable. A recent lightning strike nearby entered the dispatch center through phone lines but  did not take out the system due to protective measures and backup systems.

“Due to redundancy in our system, we were down for just a jew minutes,” Emergency Management Director Daniel Cole noted.

Cole also said that a handheld radio burned while responders were extinguishing a fire could still communicate. Although the screen was no longer visible and the heat inflicted other damage, the handheld could still communicate.

And word travels among emergency- responder-types as the local distributor acknowledged increased business and inquiries since Panola’s success with purchasing equipment below state-contract price.

That attention hasn’t gone unnoticed at the New Zealand-based manufacturing home  of Tait Communications. A short video clip about the company ended with employees there giving Panola County a group, “thank you,” for the purchase of their equipment.

EMA Director Cole and Panola Sheriff Dennis Darby were mentioned for their early promotion of updated communication system. Cole knew of the need and Darby is a retired Mississippi Highway Patrolman who had emphasized to Panola’s  board of supervisors that communication was paramount to safety.

Cole gave credit to Panola County supervisors for staying the course and the 911 board that made recommendations along the way.

Serving on both of those boards was District Five supervisor Cole Flint who emphasized that technology within county agencies had recently come a great distance.

What was apparent Wednesday was that agencies and officials, taking their time and working together, came up with a solution that is workable for all concerned.

And as Cole noted, it’s a lot easier to be financially responsible when you are spending money you don’t have.