Wiregrass: Ozark Police make changes to 911 dispatch

Posted by: Melissa Johnson - bio | email

Ozark, AL (WSFA) - It's something we depend on in a crisis, 911, but in Ozark, new changes are in effect for the way first responders are dispatched to an emergency situation.

To the average person, police scanner chatter doesn't mean much, but to 911 dispatch veteran Kathy Walker, those "10" codes, as they're called, are second nature.

She says, she even tends to use them around people she shouldn't, and they tell her, "Hey, speak English!"

And now, "plain English" is exactly what she and all local law enforcement will now be using.

Ozark Police Chief Tony Spivey says, "A week ago, a 10-50 was an automobile crash.  Now, instead of the dispatcher dispatching that as a 10-50, it will simply be dispatched as a motor vehicle crash."

The reason for the change is to create a standardized system, so that if officers from one jurisdiction respond to a crisis outside their own district, everyone understands the traffic over the police scanners.

Chief Spivey says the Enterprise tornado two years ago provided a good example for the necessity of this change.

He said, "We dispatched a number of officers as well as our special response team to Enterprise, but they didn't use the same signal system or code system that we did, so there was a gap in communication."

And while local law enforcement and E-911 dispatchers say they support the system, they say it won't be an easy change.

Walker said, "I've been doing it for a long time so it's very, very difficult.  We're noticing also with the officers who have been at it for a long time, they're having to stop and think about what they want to say."

But even so, she says, it will get easier over time, and it will be a lot easier to train newcomers since they won't have to memorize the codes.

Chief Spivey says, bottom line, it will help them serve the community better.

He said, "The biggest thing that I am hoping for is everybody being on an equal playing field.  Everybody will have more effective and efficient communication."

They hope that saving time, will also save lives.

The National Incident Management System or "NIMS" encouraged all Dale County agencies to stop using those codes by the first of the year.

Ozark police decided to go ahead with the changes to make it an easier transition.