I came to the industry by way of the fire service. I began volunteering in 1972 and became full-time in 1976 and worked my way up in the ranks over a 30-year period. All firemen have days off, and all have second jobs. I worked at two-way radio shops and was extremely involved with amateur radio. And I did computer stuff for the fire department.
The last 10 years I was technical services manager for Ducom, which is a 28-member dispatch consortium in Glendale Heights, Ill. That involved all technology and computers for the PSAP community, as well as police radio ID, dispatch and paging. One of the big challenges at Ducom was bridging the gap between technology and operations. We weren’t talking very well to each other. When I came in, I was the first technical services manager to extend a hand to the finance committee chairman, and we were able to approve a business plan for technology, which was new. Those 10 years with Ducom groomed me for where I am now.
In Will County, we are going to take a huge step away from analog copper lines for 911 by converting to a complete IP cloud. Call setup time is extremely reduced. Instead of analog copper lines, we’re looking for an IP connection and data lookups done in an IP format. We want to allow an IP connection to come right into our customer premises equipment so we don’t have to step it down to analog.
Our attitude is that we can’t do much else until we take the first step of converting what we’ve got to IP. We want to do stuff such as text messaging to the 911 center. We want to extend 911 to report to the general public. We have to get this IP-connection stuff done first.
But what concerns me when it comes to the next generation of 911 is how much stuff can our people absorb in real time? NG 911 will enable text messaging, video clips and more. But what do we do with all of this stuff? Do we pass it on to the first responder? Do we pass it on to an emergency operations center? It is going to take some real diligence. We’re trying to take a step-wise approach: start with IP and everything else will flow from there. — as told to Lynnette Luna
Steve Rauter is the executive director of the Western Will County (Ill.) Communications Center.