Kosciusko County Looks At Phone App To Reduce Police Radio Traffic

Kosciusko County is looking at a new service that promises to reduce traffic on police radios and provide a new security feature that could benefit county workers and even schools.

Currently, the 911 dispatch center uses an existing service through 911iNet to interact with other agencies, but the enhanced version would allow police and others to use group text in a secure environment.

The service works through a phone app.

“It’s an excellent format to communicate … without tying up a lot of radio traffic,” said Ed Rock, director of Emergency Management Agency.

Rock, along with Chad Hill, director of the county’s 911 center, as well as Sarah Lancaster, assistant 911 director, and Sheriff Aaron Rovenstine all spoke in favor of the service during the Kosciusko County Commissioners’ meeting Tuesday.

The county dispatch center already has a service through 911iNet, but funding from the Homeland Security regional district has dried up and officials say they want to upgrade the service as the county absorbs the new cost.

The annual cost for the enhanced service is expected to be about $4,000, Hill said.

In documents provided to county officials, 911iNet says its “911 Connect” service is considered by Homeland Security to be the “next generation of public safety technology” and Hill called it the “wave of the future.”

The service essentially creates a secured environment for group texting. The service would help reduce radio traffic during storms and other emergency situations.

“When we have a crisis or something like a storm, the center is just flooded” with communications, Hill said.

If approved, the county would first provide it to officers, EMS, fire departments as well as county highway supervisors, Hill said.

Beyond that, it could be expanded to include an optional alert system that works much like the proverbial button under the desk for county courthouse employees and even school districts, Hill said.

The department had been looking for such a service including some kind of group email service.

Hill said they looked into 911 Connect after hearing good reviews from officials in Marshall County, which has begun using the service.

In a related matter, the county is also facing another expense tied to its emergency communications.

Rock told the commissioners that the 185 radios on the 800 megahertz system need to be upgraded to work on an improved statewide network.

The cost is expected to be about $35,000. Rock pointed out that $29,000 in fees collected from phone companies in recent years could help offset the cost.

“We currently have a half a million dollars worth of equipment that if we do not do that, they basically become boat anchors,” Rock said.

No action was taken by the commissioners.