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Lafayette County Adding Cell Phones to 911 System

If you call 911 from a cell phone now, you must tell dispatchers where you are. That will change soon in Lafayette County, Mississippi.
LAFAYETTE COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - No matter where you call 911 from the number is the same, but different cities have different dispatch systems.

Lafayette County, Mississippi is in the process of changing its technology. It includes a very important upgrade for your cell phone.

If you call 911 from one now, you must tell dispatchers where you are. That will change soon in Lafayette County.

"If you make a 911 call on your cell phone right now the system doesn't know where you're at," says Joseph Johnson, county administrator.

Give it a few months and that's going to change. "With our new system it should be able to pick up a location with the cell phone without you having to give directions," Johnson says.

That's crucial during an emergency if a cell phone caller gets disconnected or whoever's dialing doesn't know where they are.

"We've got about 49,000 people in the county," Johnson tells abc24.com. They rely on Lafayette's 911 system. The county's buying a newer model because its current one has been discontinued.

"We just didn't feel like we could gamble on the possibility the manufacturer would have warehouse parts on the old system that they'd salvaged. They'd try to go out and as someone like us went to a new system, they'd approach them and try to purchase their old systems so they could maintain some parts and be able to service."

Johnson says budgeting for the upgrade has been priority number one. "They are expensive. The system we ordered is around $160,000." But, he says, well worth every penny.

"We dispatch for the sheriff's department, the hospital and the city of Oxford fire department. We hope to get between 10-12 years out of this system."

It should be up and running by October.

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