By Butch Bennett, Timothy A. Boyce, Reverend Lenard Carroll, Chief Bruce Egan, Laura Goodrich Cairns, Mayor Thaddeus Kirkland, Trish McFarland, Chief John Viola, and Chief David Tedjeske
Car accidents, missing persons, violent acts, heart attacks, children in danger, smoke filling homes and fires spreading rapidly.
All are frightening events that put families at risk, and they often generate calls to Delaware County 911. Each call is answered locally by a trained professional who calmly handles the emergency, and then dispatches needed help – day or night, rain or shine – to first responders from every corner of the County.
These emergency events occur hundreds of thousands of times every year – with over 800,000 emergency calls received in 2019 alone - and each time aid is directed to those who need it.
Delaware County’s emergency communications system is a busy one, well-organized and staffed by people who are dedicated to protecting every resident as well as many others who work in and travel through the County. It does, however, have serious infrastructure, technology and security deficiencies and is long overdue for modernization that will better support emergency services --- fire, police and medical -- by allowing them to do the jobs they have devoted their lives to, while reducing the risks they take and providing better services to you.
Delaware County is served by thousands of dedicated first responders. Their dedication, bravery, self-sacrifice, and commitment to serve deserves to be supported with the tools, technology, and equipment that allow them to protect all of us safely and effectively. Our first responders have committed to being the best, and we need to modernize our emergency communications radio system with an investment over and above the more-than $15 million the County spends each year on emergency operations.
Delaware County Council understands the community’s need and values those who serve. With that in mind, it is making a transformational investment of $40 million in the County’s emergency communications system and is seeking a $4.5 million grant from the Commonwealth to support the effort. This second-phase grant will supplement a $1.5 million state grant received last year, and would cover a portion of the cost of a 911 communications system rehabilitation and upgrade project which will:
In addition to acquiring cell phones, portable radios, and mobile computers, the County has taken significant steps to advance the project by contracting with a radio project engineer, purchasing a new “intuitive” dispatching software system, adding text-to-911 capabilities, and launching a $500,000 GIS upgrade. These County-funded 911 system upgrades are current investments that form the foundation of a modern “public service” radio system.
While each of us has out own perspective on how modernization of the 911 communications system will support what we do and the community at large, we are combining our voices in support of the project and the request for state assistance because we all agree on a critical point: providing emergency services to County residents and others is a challenge to be taken very seriously – we know through experience that a timely response to a crisis truly can be a matter of life and death. The improvements being made to the 911 system will help to safeguard first responders and those they serve.
Commonwealth support is critical to the project’s success, and it benefits more than just Delaware County. Millions of people travel highways that cross the County each year, and thousands more work here, use the airport and attend events. We all rely on those services.
This project is truly one that benefits the entire region, and we strongly support it. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania should continue to support it as well by approving the grant which Delaware County has requested.
Butch Bennett is the Delaware County Representative for the Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO. Timothy A. Boyce is the Director of
Delaware County Emergency Services. Reverend Lenard Carroll is the Chairman of the Delaware County Law Enforcement Chaplains. Chief Bruce Egan is the chief of Emergency Medical Services for Crozer Health Systems. Laura Goodrich Cairns is Acting Commerce Director of Delaware County. Thaddeus Kirkland is the Mayor of the City of Chester. Trish McFarland is the President of the Delaware County Chamber of Commerce. Chief David Tedjeske is the Director of Public Safety of Villanova University. Chief John Viola is the President of the Delaware County Chiefs of Police Association.