911 Update for State's Dispatch

By: Anna Wagnild
By: Anna Wagnild

Governor Jim Doyle has announced $29 million in grants to improve the state's emergency response dispatch centers, including $556,000 to Eau Claire County.

An estimated 70 percent of 911 calls now come from cell phones. Right now, dispatch centers are only able to pinpoint call locations if they are made on landlines. Eau Claire Communications Center's director says people calling on cell phones may not know where they are, or could be too sick or injured to give directions.

"Now, if you call 911 and you're in any of those situations and you can't say where you are, we can't respond," says Pam McInnis. "I can't say it'll be faster or slower. The fact is it'll be, which is huge."

The system is designed to benefit wireless technology users, but they are also paying for it. Starting as early as next month, cell phone bills will include a 75 to 85 cent surcharge to fund the upgrades.

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