PAYETTE — With the growth experienced in the Western Treasure Valley in recent years, so comes an increase in need for emergency services. Payette and Washington Counties are responding to this need through their latest planned upgrade to their joint 911 emergency dispatch system.

“In Fiscal Year 2015, the Idaho Emergency Communications Commission (now called the Idaho Public Safety Communication Committee) awarded Payette and Washington County a joint grant for $469,476,” wrote Payette County Sheriff’s Lt. Andy Creech in a Sept. 15 press release. “This grant made it possible for both Payette and Washington to upgrade their current 911 phone systems and join in a mutually shared 911 phone system.”

The setup allows both counties to share equipment and back each other up on a daily basis. For example, while the 911 system routes calls to the appropriate dispatch center, it can automatically ring in both counties if it is not answered within 30 seconds.

“This feature ensures that all 911 callers will reach a 911 dispatcher, even when the local dispatch center may be overwhelmed with incoming 911 calls,” wrote Creech. “The system can sustain 90 simultaneous dispatchers. We are currently supporting seven dispatch positions between Payette and Washington Counties. This system will also allow other rural counties to join our system and collaborate with other neighboring counties.”

According to Creech, this system is recommended to be upgraded every five years to keep up with demand. 

“We have now reached that point in time to be updating our current 911 phone system. The upgrade includes new hardware and software to ensure that the equipment is optimal so that Payette and Washington Counties can continue to handle the 15,186 emergency calls and 56,327 non-emergency calls that we answer every year.”

The latest upgrade comes at a cost of  $378,279, which covers installation and two years of maintenance. Funding for this upgrade will be provided through a grant from the Idaho Public Safety Communications Commission.

“The grant was approved for the total cost of the project and will not financially impact the residents of Payette and Washington Counties,” added Creech. “The upgrade to our current system will allow our agencies to continue to work together to provide the best service possible to our citizens.”

Funds from the grant will begin to be distributed Nov. 1. No timetable for completion of the upgrade was available as of press time.

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