Communications & Dispatch, News

Fulton County, Georgia Unveils New 911 System

Fulton County’s 911 system has moved from flip-phone era to iPhone 6s with the unveiling this week of a new public safety radio system.

The $20 million digital system, built over three years, replaces the analog one that was put in around the time of the 1996 Olympics.

Jonathan Reich, the technical services division chief for Fulton County emergency services, said it was too soon to tell if 911 response times would improve as part of the technology upgrade but that dispatchers and others are asking people on the other end of the line to repeat themselves less frequently. Already, it’s made a difference.

“The public gets a little quicker response from us,” said Joseph Barasoain, the director of Fulton County emergency services. “We don’t have to repeat ourselves as often. It’s crystal clear.”

The improvements are part of a larger push to modernize Fulton County’s equipment, chief operating officer Todd Long said. Other agencies upgraded in the past five to eight years.

The old system was outdated enough that it was difficult to get parts when repairs were needed, but Reich said the upgrades have put the county in a good position with strong technology.

“We definitely got value out of our analog flip phone,” he said.

In addition to less static and clearer vocals on the lines, the new system includes six new radio towers that allow better coverage indoors and in rural areas, like Chattahoochee Hills. Additionally, three new entities — Chattahoochee Hills, Union City and the National Park Service — have joined Fulton County’s network, making it easier to communicate between jurisdictions.

“It’s of tremendous value on the law enforcement side,” Reich said. “They can all hear each other, can talk to each other.”

Fulton County Chairman John Eaves said the improvements help make public safety more seamless among the county’s various first responders. More than 20 public safety agencies in the county, representing more than 3,500 people, will use the new system. “We are one county with many jurisdictions,” he said. “It’s about public safety.”