911 Problems

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When heavy rains flooded northern Illinois on Labor Day weekend the Boone County 911 Center was overwhelmed with emergencies. Police had trouble making dispatch calls because they were all trying to use the same radio channels.

"If too many people are on that radio trying to get to the 911 center the calls are going to be backed up. They're not going to be able to get what they need," said Ken Terrinoni, the Boone County administrator.

That's prompted six sheriff's departments in northern Illinois to try to set up a regional communications network. Sheriff's deputies say there's a need for backup radios and direct communication between departments during emergencies.

"We need something that's more efficient and effective. If I have to call my 911 center and tell them something and have them relay it to another agency, there's a time delay and that can be critical," said Chief Deputy Greg Bietel with the Ogle County Sheriff's Department.

During natural disasters such as a flood there can be so many people trying to call 911 that they overload a cell tower. Then no one can get through.

"In a real emergency you have to assume that the traditional methods of communication, cell phones or whatever, will be impacted," Terrinoni said.

Sheriff's deputies hope the Department of Homeland Security will answer their call for better communications equipment by granting federal funds for new technology.