Faster response for cellphone 911 calls in Joplin
October 28, 2008
Distressed citizens in the city of Joplin calling 9-1-1 now will be able to talk to the dispatch operators of the Joplin Communications Center from their cell phones as well as from their land lines. This change has come as a result of a 2007 lawsuit won by the city against the Jasper County Emergency Services Board (JCESB, aka JASCO).

Prior to this, JASCO was answering all cellular calls generated inside of the city and then transferring them to the city’s dispatch center. The city of Joplin fought for this change to occur to eliminate delays in response times to emergency calls from citizens.

“The top priority to our citizens is their safety,” said Mark Rohr, city manager. “With the city providing our own dispatch, calls will be answered in the Joplin Dispatch Center. This will avoid delayed responses by our public safety personnel.”

To verify response times of public safety personnel, city staff simulated response times using different scenarios. According to these results, routing medical calls through the county dispatch center would be able to cause a minimum of a 45-second delay, and non-medical calls response could result in an average of one minute and twelve seconds delay. In recent national studies, it has been stated that there is a seven to ten percent decrease of survival rate of heart attack victims for every minute of delay.

“In hearing these kind of delays, the city knew it was imperative for our citizens that we take all the 9-1-1 calls from Joplin in order to expedite the response and even help save lives in certain situations,” said Rohr.

JASCO’s original plan was for their agency to handle all 9-1-1 calls beginning in early 2007. After numerous attempts to negotiate failed, the city of Joplin filed for a permanent injunction to prohibit this action and for Joplin to be the public service answering point (PSAP) to receive 9-1-1 calls coming from callers in the city.

Since this decision, the city actively has been working on numerous areas to ensure a smooth and efficient transition for its citizens. The dispatch center's technology was upgraded, allowing dispatchers to maneuver through emergency services dispatch numbers quickly with just a point and click of a computer mouse. The technology provides for efficient mapping of the caller’s location; ease in contacting numerous emergency agencies, as needed, and continuous communication with a 9-1-1 operator to ensure completion of the call.

“We are pleased with this transition, and the (enhanced 9-1-1) process will continue to evolve over the next few weeks as cell phone carriers make the switch,” explained Joplin Police Chief Lane Roberts who also serves as the chair of the communications board that assisted with this process during the transition. “Cell phone carriers require some adaptations to their system to allow the- re-routing.”

Roberts also said that "cell calls placed within Joplin should come to Joplin dispatch regardless of which county [Jasper or Newton] they are made in. Occasionally a call may hit the wrong tower and go to one of the counties and have to be transferred, but that should be fairly rare. The short answer is that they will come to Joplin if they are placed in Joplin."

The Communications Center averages 70,000 calls for police assistance and 6,200 calls for fire and medical assistance. In addition, the center handles thousands of business and informational calls each year.

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