Local counties receive grants to upgrade 911 system

Jefferson, Clark and Butte counties will each be receiving money for 911 equipment from the Idaho Public Safety Communications Commission.

IPSCC awarded Jefferson County $225,000 in grant funds and Clark County received $165,000. Those funds can be used starting in November.

The primary function of the grants is to help local counties update their mapping systems. Currently, counties in the region such as Jefferson and Clark only have maps of their counties. Clark County Sheriff Bart May said this means once a call leaves the county, there is no way for that county to track where the call is coming from. However, that will soon be changing.

“We’ll have a mapping system from Utah to Montana,” May said.

May said for a county as small as Clark, becoming part of an integrated system will be especially helpful, as there are few in the county who can handle emergency calls.

“For counties like me and Butte County, being able to integrate into this is going to be a big benefit,” May said.

Jefferson County Sheriff’s Sgt. and 911 Coordinator Mike Miller said he agrees Clark County will benefit from the grant. He said while Clark County is small, those in the county deserve the same emergency resources as other, larger counties.

“I’m happy for them,” Miller said. “I’m so happy that they’re going to be able to make those upgrades.”

Miller said he is also excited about Jefferson County’s grant, which he said will allow the county to “really move forward on some great upgrades in the 911 system.”

Miller said those upgrades will include purchasing new computers and giving 911 operators the ability to initiate texts. In Jefferson County, individuals in need of emergency help can currently initiate a text with 911 in situations where it is unsafe to call. However, if a 911 call is disconnected either by the operator or the caller, the operator cannot initiate a text with the caller, Miller said. That can mean the operator has to call back, which means the caller’s phone would ring in a potentially unsafe situation. It could also mean responders do not have information they need. With the upgrade, 911 operators can text individuals for whom a phone call could be dangerous.

Jefferson County will also be joining the regional mapping system, and Miller said the move will be good for all the counties in the area.

“Obviously 911 calls don’t stop at the county line,” Miller said.