To the rescue

21 February, 1992 (~estimated)

 To the rescue

Pressure needed to force action on stalled county 911 network

The 911 systems mandated by the state Legislature have been slow in developing in most counties in New Jersey. This week Cape May became only the second county to go on-line.

By the end of June, however, four more counties are expected to implement systems. Mercer, Somerset and Middlesex counties will not be among them. According to the state timetable, Somerset County is to have a system in place by the fall; Somerset and Mercer are expected to follow, in the spring of 1993.

In Mercer County’s case, that projection appears overly optimistic. It has been without a 911 coordinator for more than a year, and efforts to bring the system to fruition have languished during that period. Mark Freda, the 911 coordinator for Princeton Borough, says it has been more than a year since he has been invited to a 911 meeting.

The failure on the part of Mercer County to make more progress is related largely to two problems — money, or lack thereof, and an inability to reach a consensus on exactly who should be included in the system and how it will work.

According to County Executive Robert Prunetti, who indicated this week that he will appoint a 911 coordinator shortly and will convene an implementation committee, says emergency personnel have not been able to reach a consensus on how the system should operate. Mr. Prunetti, as ,Milts sihe head of the statewide 911 effort, State Police Capt. Joseph Saha, prefer a consolidated system that ties all police, fire and rescue personnel into the same network. But most police departments, and some fire and rescue squads in the county, have balked, Mr. Prunetti says.

In addition, there are financial considerations. Creation of a central dispatch network would cost money — something Mr. Prunetti says he would be willing to commit at the county level, although he is seeking state and federal funding sources.

Funding or no funding, the plan will not advance until 911 is treated seriously enough to have someone designated as the county 911 coordinator, and until someone at the county level can bring everyone together to reach a consensus on how the system can be most effectively operated.

Local officials and emergency personnel in the Princeton’ and West Windsor should apply whatever pressure they can at the county level to get things moving quickly.

Lives may depend on it.

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