Southwest Ga. 911 center to get much needed upgrades

The funding for the upgrades was secured by Congressman Sanford Bishop.
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 5:36 PM CDT
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COLQUITT, Ga. (WALB) - Upgraded technology will allow first responders to more effectively serve several southwest Georgia counties, including Miller and Baker.

“Public safety communication is vital — where the call came from and where the problem is,” Miller County Sheriff Jimmy Holt said.

Sheriff Jimmy holt says the 911 call center will create more efficient communication with...
Sheriff Jimmy holt says the 911 call center will create more efficient communication with emergency officials. (WALB)

New technology will allow an E-911 dispatcher to know exactly where you are when you call them in your most desperate times. There will be a call screen where the dispatcher can explain exactly where the call came from.

“The [current] system that we’ve got is so outdated that we have to cross our fingers that it won’t tear up,” Miller County Manager Doug Cofty said.

The new system will be more reliable and takes the call center into the 21st century. The E-911 call center in Colquitt serves both Miller County and neighboring Baker County. Whitney Butler is the 911 director and has been working at the call center for more than a decade. She says officers and residents will both benefit.

“This is of our utmost importance. It’s important to always have a safe and effective way to communicate with officers because that is the main focus when a call comes in. Also, the safety of them. We need to do a status check,” Butler said.

The county, like many others, is dealing with staffing issues. They are short in the 911 call center and with law enforcement. The $160,000 call system will allow the county to quickly serve anyone in immediate need.

“Responding to people whether it be Fire, EMS, law enforcement. It will all be recorded. We know exactly where the call is coming from so as far as response, location will be very clear,” Holt said.

Baker County Sheriff Dana Meade (left) says the upgrades were long overdue
Baker County Sheriff Dana Meade (left) says the upgrades were long overdue(WALB)

Millions of taxpayer dollars are being invested in another technology aimed to protect South Georgians. P25 is a modern two-way radio system. It will allow law enforcement agencies to communicate directly with each other. The P25 will be seamlessly integrated with the new 911 technology. The technology will require more radio towers.

Representative Sanford Bishop helped secure nearly $4 million for the technology across South Georgia. It will assist Miller and Baker Counties as well as Calhoun, Colquitt, Decatur, Early, Grady, Mitchell, Seminole, Terrell, Thomas and Worth Counties.

Sheriff Holt said the current system is unreliable when they get into rural areas. He says it’s also hard to hear and gets a lot of static. Each agency in every county will have its own frequency for clearer communication.

“We want to let them know that we are keeping their lives safe by upgrading our equipment,” Cofty said.

There is still some uncertainty about when the upgrades will be complete. WALB is told it will likely be a years-long process.