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County unveils upgrades to 9-1-1 system

Mike Desmond/WBFO News

Erie County is upgrading the technology in its 9-1-1 system to keep up with increasingly high-tech cell phones. County Executive Mark Poloncarz showed off Cheektowaga's new emergency dispatch center Monday afternoon to demonstrate how it handles cell phone calls. He says the $8.9 million upgrades of a system originally installed in 1986 will benefit police, fire, and emergency medical services.

A key change is better handling of cell phone calls because 60 percent of calls to 9-1-1 now come from cells.

The new system does a better job of telling the location from which the call is being made, something Central Police Services Commissioner John Glascott says is important to police officers.

"The sooner we know where we're going and what the situation is, the better we're going to be able to react to it," said Glascott.

The new system will tell officers where the cell phone is, within 100 yards. That's important in emergency situations where the caller may not be familiar with the area.

Poloncarz says the new system will work better and save money. He says it's a good deal for taxpayers.

"Not only is a new, compatible system that has next-gen technology that will allow us to add to it in the future, it is also more cost-effective because it is going to reduce the costs associated for us having phone lines and responding to these calls," Poloncarz said.

The new system was started in the Collins Administration with the final steps completed last month to cover the Southern and Eastern Towns of the county. The next change may come as early as June when the emergency network will handle text message and will have the capacity to handle photographs.