911 calls working well on new UI system

911 calls working well on new UI system

Emergency 911 calls from campus are being routed through the new University of Illinois computer-based phone system, and officials say it's worked well so far.

The system had to be adapted to ensure emergency dispatchers received adequate location information from 911 callers, since the campus had not recorded the location of every computer port.

The data also had to be converted into usable information for METCAD dispatchers. The UI hired a private vendor, 911 Enable, for that service, at an initial cost of $114,000 and then $34,000 annually.

CITES successfully tested the new system with the UI Division of Public Safety and METCAD, and it went live June 18, said Greg Gulick, director of application services for the Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services. Two calls have come in since then, with no problems reported, Gulick said.

"We're getting calls, we're getting location data, and so far from what I've seen it's been as accurate as the old system," said METCAD Deputy Director Greg Abbott.

The only information that isn't displayed automatically is the caller's phone number, but METCAD and the UI have created two backup systems that allow a dispatcher to call the person back if a call is lost, he said. The problem has to do with the nature of voice-over-Internet services, and priority was given to location data, Abbott said.

A $1 million upgrade to METCAD's computer system, already planned for the next eight to 10 months, will resolve that issue, Abbott said.

"The university just got a little bit ahead of what we were able to receive with our current phone system for the location data," Abbott said. "It's not exactly perfect for what we would hope to see, but it's working as well as we can make it for now."

Interim UI Police Chief Jeff Christensen praised representatives from METCAD and CITES for working out a solution and said he was satisfied with the tests.

"There really were some hoops that people needed to jump through," Christensen said. "If there were issues we would have held off on implementation. We'll keep an eye on it and continue to evaluate it."


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kiel wrote on June 27, 2012 at 9:06 am

Yeah, it's a great system. In order to "answer the phone" on my Mac (which was recommended to me by tech support), I have to change the auido output, unplug my speakers, plug in a headset, and then -- THEN -- I can click on the icon to answer (that is, if the program is left running constantly, interefering with the other programs I use to actually work). So...I'm just guessing that a lot of people in my situation will no longer be answering phone calls.

vcponsardin wrote on June 27, 2012 at 9:06 am

My department is so poor, we got rid of all office phones for individual faculty several years ago.  We are supposed to use our personal cell phones instead.  This new system, therefore, is irrelevant since none of us has an office phone number anymore to switch over.  And though significantly cheaper than the old AT&T set-up, this new system still cost academic units money, which ours can't afford apart from the main office phones.  Not all academic units at the U of I are created equal.  Given the apparent awkwardness of the new system, I guess I'm glad we haven't switched over.  I conduct virtually all of my professional correspondence via email anyway.

TomG wrote on June 27, 2012 at 10:06 am

The problem there is the Mac.  They have gotten rid of the seperate mic and speaker jacks.

Sounds like you need a USB headset with a microphone.

schmeckendeugler wrote on June 27, 2012 at 10:06 am

seeing as you have a mac, you must come from one of those departments that has extra money. Use it to get an IP phone! :D

forgive my smart-aleck attitude. I just like to play devil's advocate.

kiel wrote on June 27, 2012 at 10:06 pm

That would be a great idea if (a) I knew what an IP phone is, and (b) my college IT people would suggest it to me when I contact them to ask for help.

Orbiter wrote on June 27, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Actually, look around... a lot of the Macs you'll see on campus are OLD.... and that means over 5 years old.  Some in my building are 8+ years old, and still in good functional daily use!  Why? Because the departments are underfunded and are using the only resources available to them, typically surplussed equipment or stuff that has been around a long long time.  

Go to the surplus barn and see the racks and racks full of PCs though, which nobody wants because they are unreliable, unservicable, and unsupportable.  The Macs were the better value BY FAR.  And they still are.  But it's no surprise that MICROSOFT's telephony system has some trouble with them.  And to be fair, few vendors of new software products would even think to support an 8-year-old system.

No, the flaw was expecting that the venerable telephone, with 100+ years of proven operational function (and just as much time in becoming ever-more perfect for its purpose) should be blithely abandoned in favor of 1-year old software from a company known for producing buggy code, capable of running only on computers made in the past 5 years, relying upon an 20-year-old internet that is still laden with bandwidth issues.  And in assuming that EVERY person on campus has the same needs and resources.

You know, some of us at home still receive our internet through dialup telephone systems. Now THERE is an irony for you.