Sunday, January 09, 2000

Covington now on 911 speed-dial

Dispatcher's mistake prompted action

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A Cincinnati dispatcher's mistake that sent a call about a fatal shooting to Pizza Hut has helped prompt one good thing: Covington is now on a special programmed transferring system in Cincinnati that should alleviate some future problems.

        The veteran dispatcher tried to transfer the caller to the Covington police nonemergency line, but sent it to the pizza delivery number instead. The problem did not affect the investigation of Tiffany Hall's death Oct. 31. Detectives said she already was dead by the time her boyfriend's uncle made the call.

        But the mix-up did focus attention on communication between the two departments across the river from each other. Cincinnati officials already had been talking about putting Covington on one of their one-button transfer slots. The incident helped galvanize those plans.

        “It's definitely on there,” said Lt. Alan March, a supervisor in the center that dispatches all Cincinnati police and fire units. “We had been discussing it when this happened and decided it was a good idea.”

        The change means dispatchers who take 911 calls meant for Covington can now transfer them by hitting one button. Other agencies are on the one-button “speedbox” system in Cincinnati, too. Those kinds of transfers happen an estimated several times a week, officials said.

        The new system would not have helped the confused dispatcher because the call she was handling did not come in on a 911 line. But that call illustrated the problem — she had to type in the entire number to which she wanted to transfer the call, Covington's nonemergency line, 292-2222. She instead dialed 242-2222.

        Her second attempt at transferring the call did not work either. Supervisors investigated that and found no technological problems. She ultimately gave the caller the number and asked him to call it himself.

        The dispatcher was counseled to be more careful. The Cincinnati center handles about 2,100 calls in a 24-hour period this time of year, Lt. March said. That number jumps to about 2,500 in the summer.

        Covington officials were surprised to learn their department was not on Cincinnati's speed-dial. The city has long been programmed at a variety of other centers, including Hamilton County's and all those in Northern Kentucky.

        “They've been on ours for years,” Lt. Col. Bill Dorsey said. “Well, I'm glad it's fixed.”


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