911 call center program under scrutiny
BY CASEY TONER email@example.com June 21, 2013 9:48PM
Updated: July 24, 2013 6:05AM
Executives from international technology firm Frequents are set to attend a board meeting later this month to answer questions concerning technical problems that continue to beset a million dollar 911 system it sold to SouthCom Dispatch Center five years ago.
SouthCom Dispatch Center fields all 911 calls for Matteson, Richton Park, Park Forest and Olympia Fields. The center, located at 2113 Dettmering St. in Matteson, bought its new 911 system from Austria-based Frequentis for $1.5 million in 2008.
It went online in 2011, one year later than promised and about $100,000 over budget.
Since then, SouthCom dispatchers have chronicled problems they’ve encountered with the system in a log book, and a union boss has criticized it in correspondence with SouthCom officials. Now, SouthCom chairman John Krull has joined the ranks of those who aren’t completely satisfied with the system.
“It’s important for me as a police chief to listen to what my officers are telling me,” said Krull, who is also the Olympia Fields police chief. “Their concerns should be heard and if we can’t address all their concerns, we can say, ‘we brought your concerns to Frequentis’ attention and this is what they are doing in order to correct it.’ ”
The SouthtownStar reported in March 2012 that SouthCom dispatchers had filled out a logbook and claimed in it that the 911 system was prone to freezes, giving dispatchers the wrong 911 callback numbers and has had problems transferring calls to local police and fire departments, among other things.
Metropolitan Alliance of Police secretary Richard Tracy, who represents the dispatchers union, also wrote four letters documenting the system’s glitches. His latest letter, written to SouthCom executive director Denise Pavlik in January, said the 911 system had no caller ID or reverse 911 lookup, it would drop calls, lose information, and result in computer lagging.
He wrote that dispatchers worried that the system’s problems would affect dispatching and response times or endanger a citizen, police officer or firefighter.
“I have been informed that most if not all of the previously documented issues have not been repaired or even addressed,” Tracy wrote.
Former Southcom chairman Robert Wilcox, who retired in March, previously dismissed Tracy’s claims.
“The reality is unfortunately people will write whatever they like,” said Wilcox, who was also the Park Forest fire chief. “It doesn’t mean what they write is true.”
In a phone interview, Krull said that the fire chiefs and police chiefs representing SouthCom have created lists of concerns with Frequentis system ahead of the upcoming meeting.
“Once we get all those concerns put together and we give those to Frequentis hopefully we can (have) resolution,” Krull said.
According to Krull, his police officers have said they are unable to use the system to share information gathered from suspects and other people with other emergency responders in the dispatch network.
Park Forest Fire Chief Bruce Ziegle said that his officers are having trouble retrieving from the system information they had entered in regarding labor standards, firefighter training records, and other reports.
“A lot of reports we were promised or asked for haven’t materialized yet,” Ziegle said. “We aren’t getting useful data back out of the system.”
SouthCom executive director Denise Pavlik did not respond to multiple messages left seeking comment. An attorney representing SouthCom denied a request of an audiotape of a public May 29 SouthCom meeting where SouthCom officials discussed the Frequentis system.
Attorney John Kelly claimed the audiotape was exempt under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act because it is being used solely by the secretary to compile meeting minutes, which are incomplete.
The SouthCom board meeting with the Frequentis officials is set for 8:30 a.m. June 27 at Southcom Dispatch Center, 21113 Dettmering St., Matteson.