Safety on the go: Cell phones users to get 911 protection |

Safety on the go: Cell phones users to get 911 protection

Lynn Burton
Post Independent Staff

The full 911 system will be extended to many local cell phone users in the next year, thanks to a Garfield County Emergency Communications Authority equipment upgrade project.

The system will enable 911 dispatchers to locate and trace calls from new cell phones, just like they do for land-based phones.

The authority got a big boost this week, when the Public Safety Foundation of America awarded it a $66,000 grant for the $260,000 upgrade project.

“I think it’s pretty likely we’ll be able to do this in a year,” said Garfield County Emergency Communications Authority director Robert Kibler.

Kibler said the authority has money in its equipment budget for the project, and is also looking at dipping into cash reserves and an Alpine Bank line of credit to fund the system.

The authority operates Garfield County’s combined communications center in Rifle, and also handles dispatch duties for police and fire agencies throughout Garfield County.

Kibler said the new system will only work for new cell phones, which the federal government requires to be equipped with global positioning system (GPS) capabilities.

The authority’s communication center instantly traces land-based 911 phone calls to their point of origin, which can help emergency personnel respond even if the caller can’t verbally communicate, or doesn’t know his location.

That capability doesn’t exist with cell phones. This creates problems with many cell phone users, including tourists on Interstate 70, hunters, hikers, snowmobilers and others who may not know their location.

Kibler said the new equipment will locate cell phone callers to within 10 meters on dispatch center computer screens.

Kibler said the authority will use existing GPS maps from Garfield County and area towns.

Kibler said he believes Colorado Springs is the only other Colorado town with a GPS cell phone system in place. “It seems to be working pretty well,” he said.

The system should work in all areas of Garfield County that have cell phone service.

The Public Safety Foundation of America, which made the award to Garfield County, was established by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International in 2002, according to a press release.

Funding for the foundation comes from a variety of sources, including corporations and Nextel Communications.

Contact Lynn Burton: 945-8515, ext. 534

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