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911 director: More serious calls coming in

Carbon County dispatchers are seeing more serious calls, from homicides to domestics regarding weapons, the county 911 director reported Thursday.

Gary Williams sat down with commissioners to discuss the 2023 annual report, as well as accept a proclamation recognizing the work dispatchers do to help keep the community safer.

In 2023, Carbon County dispatchers received just over 126,000 calls into the 911 center, whether it be for a medical emergency, police or fire.

“The guys are very busy up there,” Williams said. “But, I’ll say it’s not even the amount of calls that we get. It’s the severity of the calls they are receiving.” He used Monday night’s altercation that turned deadly in Lehighton as an example.

“We’re seeing a lot of more severe calls with weapons involved in domestics, fights, road rage and stuff like that,” he added.

There have been other changing demographics as well.

Carbon County has seen a significant decrease in the number of calls coming in from landlines, while a major spike in wireless calls.

“Landline is going away and wireless is taking over and even VoIP and text to 911 is taking over,” Williams said.

He said that the text to 911 has been beneficial for the county, citing a Verizon outage that took down the phone system of approximately 20 communications centers.

Carbon County has two apps - Rapid SOS and Prepared 911 - that it is used for the text to 911 program.

Williams said during that outage, the dispatchers saw a call come in through Rapid SOS and the dispatchers would text the call through Prepared 911 to be able to handle the emergency.

“We got a lot of EMS calls and all kinds of incidents at that time. So even though we were down, in the dark, with phone calls, we were able to operate off those two systems,” Williams said.

Carbon County’s 911 center operates around the clock with approximately 14 dispatchers.

Williams highlighted that dispatchers are trained to handle anything and have helped deliver three babies over the phone, as well as provide lifesaving instruction several times on CPR that saved a person.

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, who is an emergency responder, said that the county will be acting on an agreement to partner with Schuylkill to improve communications within surrounding counties with equipment.

They are looking to apply for over $5 million for communication improvements and moving to digital communications.

Nothstein said that there is a lack interconnectivity between counties now and they are working to rectify that so departments can better communicate with each other.

Williams added that the changeover to digital will be a several-year plan, and noted that while this changeover happens, the analog system would remain operational.

The commissioners also presented Williams with a proclamation naming April 14-20 as National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week in the county. This motion recognizes the men and women who serve as the first line of communication in an emergency when a person calls 911.