911 on ballot in November

By Dana Netzel

DeKalb county voters will voice their opinions regarding the installation of the 911 emergency phone system in the Nov. 7 general election.

The proposition set before the voters is whether or not DeKalb county, including NIU, will become part of the 911 system.

Part of the referendum will include the cost to cover the system, which is 84 cents per resident each month. This expense cannot be raised unless it passes on another referendum. Without the referendum, the charge can be lowered, but not raised, said Lt. Kevin Hickey, DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department.

Generally, there is a low voter turnout, 30 to 40 percent, for November elections, said DeKalb County Clerk Terry Desmond. If the 911 referendum fails, the city of DeKalb might consider putting it on a city referendum, he said.

A majority vote by the DeKalb voters could pass the system, and a two-year installation process would follow. “It is an elaborate system, but the reaction towards it has been positive,” said 911 Contel coordinator Jerry Anderson.

If the system is approved, every user will receive an identification number. The calls will be selectively routed to certain points, such as the sheriff’s department, or locations at NIU, Sycamore, Genoa and Sandwich.

Next, the call will be transmitted to local points in the communities, such as the fire or police departments. The system is entirely computerized and will take a few seconds to process each call, Hickey said.

Mapping out the rural DeKalb communities will be the biggest problem, Hickey said. Until the entire system is installed, regular emergency phone numbers must still be dialed.

Currently, NIU is the only location in DeKalb county that has a 911 emergency phone system. This system, Basic 911, has the ability to take the voice and connect it to an answering point. It is basically an emergency phone number that has been condensed to a three digit number, Hickey said.

This system, however, is not the system which DeKalb voters will be casting ballots on. The Enhanced 911 emergency phone system has the ability to obtain the address and provide supplemental information. The dispatcher will have the actual location of the phone number and also a third window, in which the computer screen has historical information of the location and medical data of the victim.

The system is beneficial because, “people that call the system and can’t respond,” will receive help, Hickey said. Helpful medical information about the victim, such as deafness, blindness, confinement to a wheelchair or a heart condition will be available through the dispatcher. Historical information about the structure such as existence of explosives or other harmful materials will also be available.

DeKalb County now has more than 30 emergency phone numbers and the 911 emergency phone number could eliminate confusion and time because it is an easy number to remember, Hickey said.

Public education is needed for the system to pass because, “people don’t understand the difference between basic and enhanced and many people feel they already have it (911), but they don’t,” Hickey said.

Any groups on or off campus who are interested in a 30 minute question and answer presentation about the system can contact Hickey at 895-2155 or Sgt. Bob McMorrow at 756-1421.