KOSCIUSKO — It’s been a half century since nearby Huntington became the first city in the country to give residents only three digits to call in an emergency. Prior to March 1, 1968, calling for help required dialing emergency services the old-fashioned way.
Indiana Treasurer Kelly Mitchell marked the 50th anniversary of 911 service with a press conference to key officials in Huntington, which was the hometown of 911 champion J. Edwards Roush. Although no exact date is known, Kosciusko County is believed to have added the emergency response program in the mid-to late 1980s.
Since that time, many upgrades have occurred.
The county’s 911 service is housed in the county’s Communications Center and coordinates all radio traffic for police, fire and emergency medical services for the entire county. In the early 1990s, enhanced 911 was added, which allowed dispatchers to have caller information immediately available. Another remodel was done in 1999 and in August 2000, the service joined Warsaw Police Department into Kosciusko Central Dispatch.
According to Kosciusko County’s website, “the communications center is located in a secure room within the Kosciusko County Justice Building. All 911 emergency telephone calls are answered at the communication center. Six radio consoles have the ability for communications with all police, fire and EMS agencies. Besides answering the 911 emergency calls the dispatchers also answer the police administrative lines for all police agencies.”
According to Deputy Rick Shepherd, communications director, the addition to 911 makes the jobs of emergency services much easier.
“It makes our job so much easier in terms of being able to respond quickly and efficiently,” Shepherd said. “And, it just keeps getting more efficient.”
With the addition of text capabilities, which were added several years ago and what Shepherd calls “Smart 911,” responders can have much needed information before contact with victims is ever made.
“If someone is, say, a diabetic and registers with us,” Shepherd said, “even if they can’t talk, we know their condition and might even have information like how to get into the house to help, where a hidden key is or things like that.”
Shepherd said with text capability, victims of crime can communicate covertly without the knowledge of suspects. He added that the use of GPS technology has also helped victims. “We’ve had cases where someone was in a field and this system helped us to locate them,” he said.
Today, according to the state treasurer’s office, more than 240 million calls are made to 911 in the U.S. each year. There were over 5 million calls to 911 and 170,000 text sessions in Indiana in 2017.