Local law enforcement agencies and the Tazewell/Pekin Consolidated Communications Center are negotiating to consolidate 911 call centers to meet a law that limits the number of dispatch centers a county can have.
TPCCC dispatches for 34 police, fire and Emergency Medical Services providers. There are four municipalities that are not contracted with TPCCC — Morton, Washington, East Peoria and Creve Coeur. East Peoria dispatches for Creve Coeur.
TPCCC is a not-for-profit organization. The Pekin Police Department and the Tazewell County Sheriff’s Department started TPCCC, said Director of Communications Tammie Conover.
“We have four PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Point) and we’re going to need to reduce that down to 50 percent, which would be two communication centers,” said Conover. “With us already being a consolidated center, the rest of them have to come together.
“There are talks working now where we may all become one Tazewell Communications and then maybe have a north and a south (facility) and have the ability to be a back up place for each other. It is based on population and the number of PSAPs in a county. The state wants them reduced.”
Tazewell County has a population of 135,394, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.
PSAPs were required to show the state by July 1 that progress was being made toward the consolidation. Tazewell County has requested additional time to work on the consolidation and was granted a two-year waiver, said Conover. The extension takes the county to October 2017, at which time it can file for an additional extension if needed.
“By then, you have to have some definite plans in action (to get another extension),” said Mike Ercegovich, TPCCC deputy director.
Conover said the requirement is another unfunded state mandate and “that builds the first negative thoughts. But I look at it as an opportunity to make things better. That takes money and obviously you have to have the ability to apply for grants, but it still gives you the opportunity to start working toward what you would like to see in the future.”
By October 2019 the county also has to be NG911 compliant — able to receive text messages for emergencies, images and video including support for American Sign Language users, and easy access to additional data such as building plans and medical information, according to the National Emergency Number Association. Conover said TPCCC does not have those capabilities at this time.
“It’s technology — the ability to be able to take in text to 911 and video to 911 and that kind of thing,” said Conover. “It’s hard to keep up with technology because there’s not enough money to back it.
“(Text and video) are important. When you are in a position where you can’t talk, and kids move better with their fingers than they do their mouth, it’s important. In a hostage situation, a domestic (battery) — we had a situation where the girl texted her sister and her sister called 911. If you’re in a situation where you cannot speak, it really is a valuable thing that I think would be good in the future. I think people text more now than they talk — at least the young people. The video streaming — I could see as helpful, but maybe not so much in this area. The (nightclub) shooting in (Orlando,) Florida, people were videoing what was going on inside so police could see firsthand, live, what was going on in there. (Police) could know where the perpetrator was. It’s just that the technology is moving so fast that by the time we get those, there will be something new out there.”
Tazewell County Emergency Telephone System Board Chairman Craig Hilliard could not be reached for comment by press time.
Follow Sharon Woods Harris at Twitter.com/sharrispekin