Clare Bennett of Manorville, left, discusses the problems residents in her neighborhood have had with emergency response during yesterday's town board work session. Photo: Denise Civiletti

New technology on the way to public safety dispatch offices in Suffolk County will help clear the confusion about responding to addresses in areas that border two jurisdictions, even when calls are made from cell phones.

Matt Jones, director of information management for the Suffolk County Police Department, met with Riverhead officials yesterday to discuss “NextGen 911,” a new enhanced 911 technology that will show dispatchers the location of a call’s point of origin and will flash an alert on their computer screen if the address is in another jurisdiction.

NextGen 911 is an Internet Protocol-based system that allows digital information — voice, photos, videos, text messages — to flow from the public, through the 911 network, and on to emergency responders.

It’s “a faster, more flexible, resilient, and scalable system that allows 911 to keep up with communication technology used by the public,” according to the 911.gov website.

The county will have the new system installed and working by the end of June, Jones said.

NextGen 911 will then be installed in the dispatch offices for the town and village police in Suffolk, Jones said. The upgrade will be made at county expense, he told the town board.

Manorville residents Clare Bennett and Cheryl Smith, who were among a group of residents complaining to the town board about emergency response times to their area, which borders Brookhaven town, attended the meeting.

Area residents have had their 911 calls routed to Suffolk County dispatchers in Yaphank. They say they’ve also been told by Riverhead Town dispatchers that they are in Brookhaven and therefore in Suffolk County Police jurisdiction, not Riverhead’s. They also say first responders — including EMS and police — have mistakenly gone to addresses in Wading River. There are duplications in street names and there had been an error in the Verizon e-911 database which has since been corrected, Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said.

“This is all well and good and sounds like we’re on the right path,” Bennett said, thanking deputy town attorney Dan McCormick for his efforts to help resolve these issues over the past six years.

“But the underlying issue to me is that in the police car on the computer screen Oakwood Drive comes up as ‘Calverton/Manorville.’ That’s where the human factor comes in. People don’t think of Calverton as being south of Grumman,” she said. “They think Grumman and north, so they end up in Wading River.” There is another Oakwood Drive in Wading River.

Smith said on one occasion she called the police three times. Responding officers went to Wading River.

Hegermiller said that was human error and the 911 system was not a factor.

“Hopefully we’ve straightened that out now,” the chief said.

2013 0822 ambulance map

Area residents in 2012 and 2013 asked the town to have their neighborhood, which is just outside the Manorville ambulance district, made part of that district. A Manorville Community Ambulance station, located on South Street in Manorville, is located less than three miles away. The Riverhead ambulance headquarters, located on Osborn Avenue in central Riverhead, is a little more than 10 miles away.

At the time, Riverhead officials said they would pursue the possibility of an intermunicipal agreement between the EMS agencies to effect that change. No agreement was ever successfully negotiated. The idea was to swap responsibility for portions both districts, but an agreement could not be reached, despite many meetings, Supervisor Sean Walter said in an interview.

“But we’ve come to realize that the problem isn’t really district boundaries so much as cell tower communications and training,” Walter said. “The new system will really help and hopefully we’ve addressed the training issue, so responders won’t be going to Wading River instead of Manorville.”

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.