Western New York became the first region in the state to have all of its residents protected by an Enhanced 911 telephone system when Allegany County activated its system Friday, officials said.
"Now, when anyone in the 11-county region, which includes the eight traditional counties of Western New York, dials 911, the call will immediately be routed to an emergency service dispatcher," said Robert Covais, director of Nynex's Enhanced 911 operations in New York.
"With the launch of the Allegany County service," he said, "the residents of the entire region are now served by a state-of-the-art emergency response network. This technology allows dispatchers to handle these calls more quickly and with a greater degree of certainty that the proper police, fire or ambulance agency will respond to the caller's emergency."
Unlike basic 911 service, which provides no information about the callers to emergency dispatchers, Enhanced 911 provides a caller's number and address, the name of the homeowner or business and the proper emergency agency to respond to the call.
Serving more than 1.3 million residential and business lines, primarily in the 716 area code, the network began with the 1983 activation of Monroe County's Enhanced 911 system. The region's largest county, Erie County, activated its Enhanced 911 in July 1988.
Counties included, in addition to Allegany, Erie and Monroe, are Ontario, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Niagara, Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming and Livingston.
"Costs for the enhanced service," said NYNEX spokesman Cliff Lee, "vary from county to county depending on the number of access lines. Erie County has some 566,000 access lines while Allegany County has only 19,000. NYNEX charges three-cents per line per month for the enhanced system and most of those costs are covered by a 35-cent a month surcharge on most telephone bills to maintain the service."
"Getting on-line with this Enhanced 911 system is a great improvement," Keith Barber, Allegany County Fire Coordinator in Belmont, said Friday.
"Before we plugged into the system, Allegany County residents had to look in their phone books and search out some 55 to 60 different emergency phone numbers to figure out what number they should call for help.
"With this system, they only have one number to remember and that's 911. The system pulls it all together and makes sure the call is given to the proper emergency responder," he added.
He said his office was averaging about 4,000 to 5,000 emergency calls a year, but other areas of Allegany County bring in another 10,000 a year.
"I couldn't be happier," he said. "We know that there will be a continuing program of updating and corrections, but there is no comparison between this new system and what we've had to deal with in years past.
The Allegany County Board of Legislators approved an Enhanced 911 project in 1992 and work began that same year on the time-consuming task of identifying and assigning a specific address to every residence and business in the county.
The Allegany County system will use two dispatch centers. One center in Wellsville will handle emergency calls from the village and town of Wellsville, while a second center in Belmont will take emergency calls from all other communities in the county. The Belmont dispatch center also will act as a back-up system for the Wellsville center.