Public safety gets $5 million boost

The Kaua‘i County Council yesterday unanimously approved the release of more than $5 million in state funds to upgrade the county’s public safety systems for the next generation.

The decision will allow the county to go forward with a six-year public safety IT strategic plan that will implement improved technologies to boost the efficiency and effectiveness of emergency responders, county IT Communications and Project Manager Eric Knutzen said.

The money comes from E-911 surcharges that the state collects from cellular phone customers.

Kaua‘i Police Department Deputy Chief Mark Begley helped put the application together that set Kaua‘i up to become the first county in the state to receive funding from this pool. The state Wireless Enhanced 911 Board in June approved $5.32 million.

In 2003, the county identified the need for computer-aided dispatch and records management systems, which were installed over the next two years.

Later, a geographic information system was introduced in part to reduce costs of helicopter post-crime scene reviews.

In 2007, E-911 was implemented and GPS cellular locators made it possible to pinpoint for dispatch where the calls were coming from so officers could arrive on the scene sooner.

“We know from examples where this has saved lives,” Knutzen said. “It’s good, but there are improvements needed.”

To meet the needs of tomorrow, Knutzen said, the county needs digital aerial photography; next generation CAD and RMS procurement, training and implementation; and full integration and interoperability with RMS, GIS and mobile data terminals with field reporting.

Begley said the department has had to reevaluate its priorities. It decided to resolve the interoperability issue first, which Knutzen said should be done over the next couple years.

The technological improvements will boost the first-responders’ speed to citizens in despair; resolve incompatibility and lack of interoperability in existing systems; and expand the protocol for more information to be transmitted to first responders in real time, he said.

For instance, dispatch today can identify the location of a 911 caller. With the technology improvements, dispatch could also see on the screen the location of the nearest public safety unit.

Another benefit would be the ability of officers to listen in on the conversation between the caller and dispatch, and ask questions if necessary, reducing the need for dispatch to relay the information. The result, Knutzen said, is the first responder arriving on the scene better informed.

Begley said President Bush signed a declaration on July 23 saying such next generation improvements must be made nationwide.

The Big Island, Knutzen said, has already started with its flyovers for digital aerial photography.

The county would provide the funding in reimbursable installments, Knutzen said.

In addition to the state funds, the county this spring received $300,000 from the Weapons of Mass Destruction federal grant and should within weeks receive another $250,000 from the same source, Knutzen said.

Councilwoman Shaylene Iseri-Carvalho said what the Kauai Police Department has accomplished under its new leadership of Chief Darryl Perry has been “impressive.”

• Nathan Eagle, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or neagle@kauaipubco.com

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