Emergency Telephone System Board takes steps towards 911 consolidation, Next Generation 911

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- Texting and sending video to 911 during an emergency could soon be a reality in Winnebago County. Some members of the Emergency Telephone System Board think having a consolidated 911 center will help solve issues with the transferring of calls from the city to the county.

The Winnebago County Emergency Telephone System board, or ETSB, is taking steps to consolidate the city and county 911 centers.

"Every year there's approximately 11,000 people that their calls are transferred from the county to city, city to the county,” said Rockford Fire chief Derek Bergsten.

That's why police and fire departments in the county think having one call center could solve a lot of problems.

"That’s going to be a service enhancement, service delivery,” said chief Bergsten.

The ETSB is considering a proposal to hire a consultant who would study the best ways to form a consolidated 911 and dispatch center, but some board members want to make sure that study is thorough and all municipalities in the county agree on it.

"We didn't say tell us what the best options for Winnebago County are. We said we're consolidating. We just need that buy-in from everybody,” said Loves Park Police chief, Chuck Lynde.

The board also discussed the implementation of Next Generation 911, a new system that will allow 911 centers to accept text and video messages.

"If somebody's in an area where they can't speak, they can text 'help,' give their location." But it does come with some concerns." You're not able to communicate as quickly as you are voice to voice,” said Chief Bergsten.

Chief Bergsten says both the consolidation process and implementing new 911 technology isn't going to save us money.

"You still have to have the same number of bodies to answer phone calls and dispatch fire and police." But he says the benefits will outweigh the cost.

The proposal will now be sent for review. When it comes back, talks about how much this will cost will begin. Chief Bergsten says there is no timeline on when both consolidation and implementing next generation 911 will happen.