Bella Vista 911 calls go to county first

The Weekly Vista - - Front Page - KEITH BRYANT

A 911 call in Bella Vista does not go to Bella Vista’s dis­patch of­fice.

Bri­anna Fields, deputy di­rec­tor of the Ben­ton County Of­fice of Emer­gency Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, said that these calls go in­stead to CenCom in Ben­tonville, where dis­patch­ers for the county ac­cept calls. These dis­patch­ers, she said, are trained to ask for a lo­ca­tion first, and once they know a call is in Bella Vista, they for­ward it to Bella Vista’s dis­patch cen­ter.

“Ev­ery call is unique in its own. If the caller can pro­vide that ad­dress im­me­di­ately, it’s an in­stant trans­fer,” she said. “It’s an au­to­matic trans­fer, there’s no de­lay, no wait­ing.”

The im­por­tant thing, she said, is ver­i­fi­ca­tion. If the caller just gives a street ad­dress, for in­stance, par­tic­u­larly with a com­mon street name, the dis­patcher needs to ver­ify the city to en­sure they aren’t send­ing some­one to the wrong town.

De­pend­ing on the shift, she said, CenCom may have be­tween

four and seven dis­patch­ers. In May the cen­ter took just un­der 3,300 emer­gency calls and just un­der 18,000 non-emer­gency calls. The call vol­ume varies with the sea­sons, she said.

Mary Sul­li­van, 911 ad­min­is­tra­tion di­rec­tor for Ben­ton County, said that Bella Vista does not re­ceive 911 calls di­rectly be­cause it’s iden­ti­fied as a sec­ondary of­fice to CenCom, which is iden­ti­fied as the county’s pri­mary public safety an­swer­ing point, or PSAP. This des­ig­na­tion, she said, was made in March of 2002.

“Our small­est pri­mary PSAP is Siloam Springs,” she said, “and as of the end of June they have had a to­tal 3,835 911 calls.”

That num­ber av­er­ages to 767 per month.

In that same five-month pe­riod, she said, Ben­tonville had 7,497 911 calls, Rogers had 12,933 and CenCom re­ceived 17,007.

Bella Vista, she said, had 1,926.

The county’s 911 ad­min­is­tra­tion, she said, does pro­vide fund­ing for Bella Vista’s dis­patch equip­ment, net­work­ing, trunk lines and main­te­nance, the same as the ad­min­is­tra­tion cov­ers for a PSAP.

“They’ve got the ex­act same thing that ev­ery­one else has,” she said. “We pay for their equip­ment, we pay for the lines that go into that equip­ment.”

The fund­ing dif­fer­ence, she said, is quar­terly cel­lu­lar funds is­sued by the Arkansas Emer­gency Tele­phone Ser­vices, or ETS Board. Cel­lu­lar 911 fees, she said, go to the ETS board and are dis­trib­uted to pri­mary PSAPs.

Sul­li­van added that there is a mora­to­rium on cre­at­ing ad­di­tional PSAPs in Arkansas.

Act 574, passed March 23 pre­vents any new PSAPs from be­ing cre­ated in Arkansas un­til July 1, 2020, ex­clud­ing those cre­ated as a re­sult of con­sol­i­da­tion with an ex­ist­ing PSAP or those cre­ated to re­place an ex­ist­ing PSAP.

Bella Vista Po­lice Cap­tain Tim Cook said that he be­lieves Bella Vista should be a PSAP.

“I think it would bet­ter serve the peo­ple in­side our com­mu­nity, our res­i­dents and also the peo­ple trav­el­ing through our com­mu­nity,” he said. “It would give them a quicker re­sponse.”

In ad­di­tion to hav­ing to wait for a trans­fer, he said, some­times a caller, who may be in dan­ger, will hang up af­ter call­ing 911. If that hangup hap­pens be­fore the call is trans­ferred, he said, Bella Vista doesn’t get the map data that typ­i­cally ac­com­pa­nies a call and needs to call CenCom to find out what they know, fur­ther de­lay­ing the emer­gency work­ers’ re­sponse.

It’s dif­fi­cult to say how of­ten this is an is­sue, he said.

Bella Vista, he said, has had a 24-hour dis­patch cen­ter since the 1970s.

“Prior to 911 be­ing about, we had a ded­i­cated emer­gency 7-digit emer­gency line,” he said.

Pre­vi­ously, he said, Bella Vista’s emer­gency dis­patch was ex­cluded be­cause it was not a city at the time. The pri­mary rea­son it isn’t cur­rently a pri­mary PSAP, he said, is poor tim­ing.

With­out func­tion­ing as the city’s pri­mary, he said, Bella Vista can’t pro­vide the best ser­vice pos­si­ble.

“Bella Vista is go­ing to con­tinue mov­ing for­ward and ex­pand­ing and op­er­at­ing our 911 cen­ter and look­ing for­ward to the date when that leg­is­la­tion is no longer in ef­fect to move for­ward and try and be­come a pri­mary,” Cook said.

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