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In Lackawanna County, 911 for a New Age

JESSUP -- First responders and 911 dispatchers are now better connected than ever before in Lackawanna County.

Dispatchers unveiled a new computer system Wednesday that has changed the way police, firefighters, and EMTs respond to emergencies.

Dispatchers showed us around the county's new CAD system or Computer Assisted Dispatch software at the Lackawanna County 911 Center in Jessup.

It tracks every police car, fire truck, or ambulance in the county and uses GPS to take some of the guesswork out of responding to emergencies.

"In the past, our dispatcher would have to look on a map and they would have to go by the way the bird flies. Now, the mapping system does that work for us and actually tells us by driving directions, the closest ambulance to that call," explained 911 dispatcher Thomas Taylor.

It also tracks the call. As we watched the presentation, 911 calls popped up on the screen. There were reports of someone with a gun in Scranton. The yellow lines turned blue as each police officer arrived.

That call, fortunately, turned out to be unfounded.

"That's beneficial to the dispatcher to know that those officers are on scene. We stay on the phone with these callers until help arrives. In that aspect, we can free ourselves up to move on to the next emergency," Taylor said.

All the information available to dispatchers is now automatically available to police officers. Soon, every police vehicle in the county will have the system on a laptop computer.

"Every time there's an update to the call, the computer chimes off to us so that we know that there was an update and we can see what's going on almost in real time," said Dickson City Officer Mike Fredericks.

The computer system reinforces the old-fashioned method of responding to 911 calls. Dispatchers will still use a radio.