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Idaho Dispatchers Get Cell Tracking System

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho -- Emergency dispatchers in Fremont County, Idaho, have been known to ask callers to flash their lights when they hear sirens so first responders will know where to go.

That's why Dispatch Supervisor Roni Kennedy is thrilled about a new mapping program the county installed on its computers last week.

The software, a $70,000 program called BullBerry Insight Dispatch, allows her to pinpoint the location of someone calling on a cell phone or a landline.

The new setup also allows dispatchers to pull up maps that show the fastest route to an emergency and to mark controlled burn areas so firefighters can distinguish between controlled burns and wildfires.

""It takes the guesswork out of all of that,"" Kennedy said. ""This is going to make all the difference in the world.""

The installation of the program marks the second phase of Fremont County's overhaul of its emergency systems. The first phase involved putting all of its records online so county employees can access them from almost anywhere.

The next phase entails putting laptops in deputies' vehicles, which will let them file reports while at the scene.

""It really puts us on the cutting edge of technology,"" Fremont County Sheriff Ralph Davis said of the upgrades.

It also helps save lives.

The program installed last week allows the sheriff's office to track a moving cell phone as well as a stationary one.

Similar technology in Bonneville County helped deputies rescue a 17-year-old kidnapping victim last year. Nabbed after a drug deal went awry, the teen managed to dial 911 on her cell phone. Though she couldn't talk, dispatchers used the software to track her.

""In that case, the technology was able to narrow down the victim's location to within three houses,"" said Sgt. Doug Metcalf of the Bonneville County sheriff's office.

There will be hiccups in Fremont County, though, said Brett Mackert, the county's Search and Rescue commander.

The main issue, he said, is that a ""pretty good chunk"" of the county doesn't have reliable cell phone service.

But the software will help his crew, especially because it typically takes two to three hours to rescue someone who's lost - even if searchers have clues about a victim's location, he said.

""It will certainly help if everything works the way it is supposed to work,"" Mackert said.

Kennedy agrees.

""Sometimes it takes so long to get things going, we lose valuable time,"" Kennedy said. ""(Now) we've got an edge.""

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