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Get computers fixed for fire dispatching

Tuesday, March 28, 2000

Bay County Executive Thomas Hickner says the computer company that installed a new system for 911 Central Dispatch in 1998 "has made a very strong and firm commitment to deal with" bum information the fire departments are getting.

We certainly expect the problems will be corrected in that period of 30 to 60 days. They've been known about for quite a while, at least since late fall. Fire departments have been getting incorrect locations of the nearest water hydrants and information about specific buildings that bear on how a blaze should be fought. The problems were being fixed, The Times was told in late November. Yet problems remain, as articles in Sunday's Times point out. Fire chiefs are getting discouraged. We expect some county officials are just as frustrated.

Some bugs and glitches with the New World computer programs have been ongoing since installation in 1998 at a cost of more than $360,000. The firefighting information problems were apparent late last year. Squabbling between county officials and fire chiefs, as we pointed in a Nov. 28 editorial, serves no good purpose. It only shakes public confidence.

Fire runs are only about one-fourth of the calls out of 911 Central Dispatch.

We're not yet ready to suggest tossing out New World's system. The system is problem-plagued for one-fourth of the calls, those to firefighters, but not for the other three-quarters of the calls, to police departments or for recording-keeping functions.

It seems all the people involved - townships and cities and the county - still are not willing to stop looking for everybody else's past sins. They need to, and now. When it comes to solving the problem, it makes no difference exactly when the county's top 911 Central Dispatch administrator knew of printout problems, in February or last fall.

The county managed to get through the winter months without a fiery disaster. Part of the reason has been just old-fashioned good luck and part dispatchers and fire departments working around the computer problems. The county paid for better service than that from New World. In fact, the county has expressed its dissatisfaction with the lack of progress; it is withholding $33,000 from New World from last year's services.

Dispatchers, firefighters and the public that relies on emergency services in potential life-and-death situations don't want to push their luck any longer. They should not have to in another 30 to 60 days. Hickner said New World indicated last week that it plans to change its supervisor for the Bay County system and to have the bugs out by then.

Working together, without cynicism or sniping, maybe this time the fire chiefs, county officials and New World troubleshooters can get it all fixed within the self-imposed deadline.

-- - (, March 28, 2000


Where is this area? Bay County- California?? What cities?

-- Chuck's wife (, March 29, 2000.

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