911 director updates community on call center upgrades

News
Marty Roberts - Towns 911

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County 911 Director Marty Roberts brought the community up-to-date on the progress of the upgraded equipment and renovations to the Emergency Operations Center during the February commissioner’s meeting.

“We’re excited at 911. There’s a lot of things happening down there that are just wonderful,” Roberts said. “Everything looks great. The dispatchers are really excited about the new upgrades. We’re ahead of schedule on going live with our CAD. We started our training last week. We were in training for four days. We’ve got two more weeks of that and then we’ll be cutting live on the 24th of March. So we’re really excited about that.”

Roberts confided that the renovations have not been a simple task, however, considering that the 911 center is operational at all times. In addition to a lease agreement with AVTEC for the radio console systems, a contract with Quality Recording for a recorder to preserve the audio of 911 calls was signed by Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw.

“The radio console, it’s not actually a radio,” Roberts continued. “It’s actually a computer system hooked to radios which allows the dispatchers to combine different frequencies to talk to the fire, EMS, SO at the same time. So we don’t have to talk to one and then talk to the other. It allows us to do our tones that we dispatch to alert the fire station or the ambulance services when we have a call.” Roberts said that the upgraded system will increase the speed of emergency dispatch.

Emergency dispatch, responders switch to digital communication

 

A five-year lease agreement was entered with AT&T in November, in conjunction with West Safety Services, at a cost of $4.260 per month for the emergency telecommunications service. Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw explained that while the county considered purchasing the service, the lease agreement proved to be the better bargain due to maintenance and service costs associated with an owned system.

Bradshaw previously signed a contract in July 2019, upgrading the county’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system for emergency services. Towns County 911 explained that the improved system will be custom-tailored to Towns County. The cost of the enhanced CAD system totals nearly $213,000, a price that Bradshaw defined as a “tremendous amount of money.” The charge is roughly half of the amount that the commissioner expected to spend on the program upon taking office, however, and Bradshaw expressed approval, referencing computer-aided dispatch as “the heartbeat of 911.”

“There are times when leasing is more cost-effective because the maintenance of this equipment is included in the lease,” Bradshaw said on Tuesday. The new console system will cost $2,983 per month which includes maintenance, whereas it has cost $1,055 per month in maintenance alone without parts included for the 12-year-old system. “We’re not only upgrading all of the technology and equipment down there, we’re also remodeling the interior of the building,” Bradshaw added. “New floor coverings, ceiling, tiles, paint, and it’s going to look very nice.”

The commissioner said that the public will be invited to view the renovations to the 911 Center once the project is complete.

Emergency dispatch, responders switch to digital communication

News
Towns County 911

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Emergency Operations Center is in the process of transitioning from analog to digital radio communications with a test run currently in effect. The updated system is scheduled to “cut live” on Tuesday, Jan.21. Towns County E-911 Director Marty Roberts said that the test period is progressing well, stating that the updated system provides clearer reception in areas where service was once weak for communication between dispatchers and first responders.

Click to read Towns County to upgrade 911 emergency system in 2020

Citizens who have listened to emergency transmissions on analog scanners in the past will no longer be able to receive information without upgrading to a digital device. Roberts said, however, that Towns County E-911 will continue to use analog communication with the Georgia State Patrol, Department of Natural Resources, and medical flight transport as those divisions remain on an analog system.

Analog and digital radios transmit signals over a radio channel using a carrier frequency wave. The manner that the transmission is encoded over a channel frequency is different, however. Analog radios use frequency modulation to encode a voice signal within a carrier wave. The sound of the user’s voice modulates the frequency of the stream. The difference between the modulated frequency and the baseline channel frequency can then be demodulated by the receiving radio and turned back into a comprehensible voice message.

Digital radios operate in the same manner, but they have an extra encoding step before the voice signal reaches the carrier wave. The voice message is encoded into binary packets. These packets of numbers are then able to modulate the frequency of the carrier wave.

Tuesday’s official launch of the updated system will include staff from emergency departments in attendance, Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw said.

Towns County 911 upgrades advance on schedule

News
Towns County 911

HIAWASSEE, Ga.- Towns County held a special-called meeting last week to advance plans for the county’s updated 911 command center. A five-year lease agreement was signed with AT&T, in conjunction with West Safety Services, at a cost of $4.260 per month for the emergency telecommunications service. Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw explained that while the county considered purchasing the service, the lease agreement proved to be the better bargain due to maintenance and service costs associated with an owned system.

Towns County 911

Renovations are underway at the Towns County 911 call center in preparation for the advanced system.

Bradshaw previously signed a contract in July 2019, upgrading the county’s computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system for emergency services. Towns County 911 Director Marty Roberts explained that the improved system will be custom-tailored to Towns County and that the program is expected to be up and running in late March or early April of 2020. The cost of the enhanced CAD system totals nearly $213,000, a price that Bradshaw defined as a “tremendous amount of money.” The charge is roughly half of the amount that the commissioner expected to spend on the program upon taking office, however, and Bradshaw expressed approval, referencing computer-aided dispatch as “the heartbeat of 911.”

911 dispatchers will receive additional training prior to the introduction of the advanced system, and the hardware and software – with servers, links, and terminals – are included in the modernized package. Roberts said that mobile CADs will be installed in ambulances for the first time in county history, allowing paramedics to view precise locations of medical emergencies on maps while exchanging critical information with the call center. The system will subsequently reduce radio traffic, freeing talk-time over the airwaves. The same company which has provided CAD service in Towns County for more than a decade will supply the innovated program. Union and White counties currently employ a similar system.

Roberts, who described the soon-to-be advanced center as second to none, said that the upgraded phone system will “cut live” simultaneously with the CAD program in early spring, and an open house will be held at the Towns County Emergency Operations Center.

Towns County 911

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw (left) with 911 Director Marty Roberts at the CAD contract signing.

 

Unicoi Gap accident claims life of Hiawassee resident

News
Dale Pollard

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – An accident on State Route 75 South claimed the life of Hiawassee resident Glyn “Dale” Pollard, 83, on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

Towns County 911 dispatched first responders shortly after 8 p.m. to an area approximately one mile north of Unicoi Gap following a report of a vehicle off the roadway, located approximately 30-feet down a steep embankment.

Pollard was pronounced deceased on the scene. Georgia State Patrol is investigating the deadly crash.

Pollard was traveling northbound toward Hiawassee at the time that the fatal accident occurred. Due to the absence of visible brake marks on the roadway, authorities believe that Pollard may have suffered a heart attack prior to impact.

Hundreds took to social media in the days following Pollard’s death, offering condolences and sharing memories of the well-known Hiawasssee resident and member of Macedonia Baptist Church. “Dale loved people; he was funny and fun to be around. He was known to say, ‘You may not like me, but you will never forget me,'” Pollard’s obituary reads in part.

Archive:

UPDATED: Report of vehicle off embankment near Unicoi Gap

Towns County to upgrade 911 emergency system in 2020

News
Towns County 911

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Towns County Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, joined by Towns County 911 Director Marty Roberts, held a special-called meeting at the courthouse Tuesday, July 2, to sign a contract approving an upgraded 911 computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system for emergency services. “It’s been time to upgrade it,” Commissioner Bradshaw said, adding, “We’re at the point where we’re ready to move forward with it.”

Towns County 911

Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw (left) with 911 Director Marty Roberts

911 Director Roberts explained that the improved system will be custom-tailored to Towns County, and that the program is expected to be up and running in early 2020. The cost of the enhanced system totals nearly $213,000, a price which Bradshaw defined as a “tremendous amount of money.” The charge is roughly half of the amount that the commissioner expected to spend on the program upon taking office, however, and Bradshaw expressed approval, referencing computer-aided dispatch as “the heartbeat of 911.”

911 dispatchers will receive additional training prior to the introduction of the advanced system, and the hardware and software – with servers, links, and terminals – are included in the modernized package. Roberts said that mobile CADs will be installed in ambulances for the first-time in county history, allowing paramedics to view precise locations of medical emergencies on maps, while exchanging critical information with the call center. The system will subsequently reduce radio traffic, freeing talk-time over the airwaves. The same company which has provided CAD service in Towns County for more than a decade will supply the innovated program.

 

Towns County 911 speaks out on fatal BOLO

News
Terry Silvers

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Three months have passed since a fatal crash took the life of Hiawassee resident Terry Silvers, leaving two victims injured, a 911 caller traumatized, and the citizens of Towns County questioning the responsibilty of the authorities involved in the controversial tragedy.

On the evening of Saturday, Feb.23, a “be-on-the-lookout” (BOLO) for a reckless driver was issued by Towns County 911 to the Towns County Sheriff’s Office, a call that went unanswered by Corporal Gregory Joseph – the sole deputy assigned to that particular zone – shortly before the deadly collision occurred.

Towns County 911 Director Marty Roberts recently spoke with FetchYourNews (FYN), clarifying the process employed by the emergency agency. “A BOLO is a BOLO,” Roberts explained. “There isn’t different levels of urgency. The dispatcher handled the Feb. 23 call correctly. The key was when the driver was identified as Silvers. We typically do not dispatch a subject’s name.”

Corporal Joseph had responded to an accident involving Silvers the previous night, allowing the father of six to leave the scene without facing charges, despite testimony from witnesses who claimed the now-deceased was obviously impaired. Silvers, who had a criminal record, was known by local law enforcement to suffer from drug addiction. Furthermore, an additional Silvers’ accident took place a few months prior, with the same deputy in question responding to a vehicle rollover.

Family members of Silvers, as well as the 911 caller, have publicly speculated that because Silvers was identified by dispatchers, Towns County Sheriff’s Office may have opted to disregard the turned-fatal BOLO.

Towns County’s 911 director emphasized that the deputy who bypassed the BOLO was not dispatched by 911 to the possible prowler call in the eastern zone, a call which was adequately covered by a second deputy and a Hiawassee police officer. Early into FYN’s investigation, Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton denied departmental responsibility in a statement issued to the county’s legal organ, shifting focus toward Towns County 911. The sheriff has yet to answer questions posed by investigative reporters.

Although Towns County 911 is its own separate entity, Roberts said that the responsibility to alter the system lies within the Towns County Sheriff’s Office. “We dispatch according to the protocol the department sets,” Roberts stated. “We are always willing to improve.”

11Alive News in Atlanta is scheduled to broadcast their investigation into Towns County Sheriff’s Office involvement in the well-known tragedy this evening, May 26, at 6 p.m.

Additional articles on the subject, including the audio from the viral 911 call, are available by clicking this highlighted link.

AUDIO: 911 tape disputes Towns County Sheriff’s “facts” on fatal accident

 

Towns County deputy who bypassed fatal BOLO released Silvers night before crash

Investigative Report, News
Towns County 911

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – FYN uncovered troubling new details leading to the Feb. 23 accident that left one man dead, two victims injured, and a 911 caller in need of trauma therapy.

On the evening of Terry Silvers’ fatal crash, an unresponsive be-on-the-lookout (BOLO) was issued by Towns County 911 to Towns County Sheriff’s Office. In the dispatched audio recently released by FYN, a siren can be heard passing a 911 caller who pursued Silvers’ vehicle into North Carolina, initiating an urgent call for law enforcement’s help.

FYN recently discovered that the same Towns County Sheriff’s Office deputy who did not respond to the turned-fatal BOLO was the deputy who released Silvers the night before tragedy struck. Towns County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Greg Joseph, also known as 112, bypassed the frantic 911 caller in order to respond to a possible prowler on Clark Drive in eastern Towns County. Deputy “112” released Silvers the previous night following an accident on Bugscuffle Road in Hiawassee.

Terry Silvers, in a photo submitted by his daughter

Terry Silvers, in a photo submitted by his daughter, Amber

FYN received inside information that Towns County Sheriff’s Office Deputy 116, Eddie Spradlin, the county officer heard chastising the 911 dispatcher for issuing the BOLO on the released tape, requested the specific assistance of Hiawassee Police Department in response to the possible prowler. Towns County Sheriff’s Office dual, on-duty deputies were assigned to eastern and western zones.

A Towns County Sheriff’s Office deputy and Hiawassee Police Department officer were already on scene, actively clearing the residence, at the time the unanswered BOLO was issued for Silvers’ vehicle, prior to the deadly accident.

According to a local newspaper, Towns County Sheriff Chris Clinton stated that Deputy 112 Joseph was responding to provide back-up for the “only other deputy on duty,” referencing the possible prowler call as the reason that the BOLO was ignored. What Sheriff Clinton failed to mention was that not one, but two law enforcement officers were already on scene, securing the residence. “While we cannot possibly be there in time to prevent every tragedy, our deputies do a superb job of protecting our community with the resources available,” the sheriff is quoted as saying in the March 6 publication, “They perform their duties at the highest levels of professionalism, and they care deeply about our community and the safety of all citizens.”

While FYN remains strong advocates of law enforcement, FYN’s questions concerning the Silvers’ case remain unanswered by Towns County Sheriff’s Office.

On March 8, Sheriff Clinton published Deputy 112 Joseph’s body camera footage from Silvers’ Bugscuffle accident on the evening prior to the fatal crash. Despite testimonies from witnesses claimimg that Silvers’ was clearly in no condition to drive, Silvers was released without charges by Towns County Sheriff’s Office. As previously reported by FYN, multiple individuals have come forth to claim that Silvers was repeatedly released by Towns County Sheriff’s Office despite evident impairment following numerous accidents. In combination with widespread knowledge of Silvers’ opioid use, citizens are questioning why law enforcement failed to take a proactive role. In the published footage, Deputy 112 Joseph states that he has responded to accidents involving Silvers in the past while the tow truck operator on scene later questions Silvers’ sobriety. “Mr. Silvers, how many wrecks you going to have on this road?” the deputy asked. Silvers was administered an alcohol sensor and horizonal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, and released without charges the night prior to his death.

FYN discovered that Silvers was arrested in May 2008, by Hiawassee Police Department for driving under the influence of opioids. According to the arrest report, former Hiawassee Chief Jimmy Wright performed a HGN test which Silvers failed. In the report, the late chief stated that Silvers exhibited evident disorientation and slurred speech.

In a social media post attached to the body camera footage, Sheriff Clinton stated in relation to the unresponsive BOLO that never was “a judgement call made by anyone employed by, supervised by, or otherwise under the control or responsibility of the Sheriff of Towns County.” Clinton seemingly shifted blame to Towns County 911, causing online outrage in response.

An administrator with Towns County Sheriff’s Office added comments concerning the department’s need for back-up without acknowledging the fact that a Hiawassee Police Department officer was on scene. In addition, the sheriff’s administrator provided an informational link in a seeming attempt to disassociate the sheriff’s office from Towns County 911. UPDATE: Following the release of this article, the sheriff’s administrator deleted comments made.

In accordance with state law, FYN filed a simple, open records request with Towns County Sheriff’s Office March 6 for the written report on the prowler incident. Towns County Sheriff’s Office replied that due to increased prisioner transport to the courthouse, the department’s road patrol lieutenant and captain had not yet approved the report, and that it will not be available for release until as late as March 15.

Georgia’s Open Records Act allows a maximum of 72 hours for delivery of public records, or a viable reason as to why they cannot be produced.

Towns County Sheriff’s Office has not responded to FYN’s requests for comment on Silvers’ case.

WSB-TV and 11 Alive news in Atlanta have taken interest in FYN’s investigation.

 

 

 

 

“National Telecommunications Week” recognizes Towns County 911 dispatchers

News
Towns County 911

YOUNG HARRIS, Ga. – Emergency 911 operators are a literal lifeline for those in need of assistance from law enforcement, fire departments, or urgent medical services. Annually adopted, April 14-20 marked “National Telecommunications Week,” a period set aside to recognize the crucial, behind-the-scene duties conducted by dispatchers. Towns County 911 hosted a barbeque dinner, complete with southern side dishes, at the Emergency Operations Center in Young Harris, April 22, in appreciation of the difficult, demanding jobs our local 911 operators perform.

Towns County 911

Towns County 911 Center

Towns County dispatchers serve 12 hour shifts, with two operators assigned per stretch. One dispatcher receives emergency calls while relaying pertinent information to their partner. The second operator “tones” and transmits the details to the appropiate first responder units. At times, dispatchers find themselves juggling multiple calls, all the while remaining calm and composed despite the magnitude of a crisis.

“They’re locked in this room, twelve hours a day, and there’s times when there’s a lull, but when it gets busy, it’s just crazy,” 911 Director Marty Roberts told FYN. “They work really hard, and people kind of forget about them because they’re in here. When we have something like this, when we can recognize them, we let them know that we think about them, and acknowledge that they do a hard job. We’re proud of them. I’ve got some of the best dispatchers in the country. I’d put them up against anybody. They do a wonderful job.”

Deputies from Towns County Sheriff’s Office, personnel from Towns County Emergency Medical Services, and Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw attended the dinner. “I can’t thank 911 enough for all that they do,” Commissioner Bradshaw said. “They truly care. They put their heart and soul into it. They do an outstanding job.”

Feature Photo: (L-R) Towns County 911 Dispatchers: Presley Smith, Christine Vannus, Michelle Hedden, Ashley Walker, Trina Campbell, Robyn Henson, 911 Director Marty Roberts, Phillip Ivester, Karen Abercrombie, Wayne Canterberry

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