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Advisory committeess review 9-1-1 system problems

Issue discussed by emergency dispatch users at July 7 meeting

Operators of the city-owned 9-1-1 dispatch network have restarted three technical advisory committees to help solve problems with the replacement system.

The network is owned by the Portland Bureau of Emergency Communications on behalf of all police departments, fire bureaus and emergency medical responders within Multnomah County. The committee include technical service representatives from those agencies.

The committee's renewed involvement was discussed at the July 7 meeting of the Bureau of Emergency Communications User Group, which represents those served by the system.

Although the meeting was closed to the press, the Portland Tribune obtained the agenda and a document related to the 9-1-1 system through a public records request.

According to Fairview Police Chief Ken Johnson, the committees had been involved in the development of the replacement system, but had not been consulted much by BOEC officials after it was activated on April 17. More than 500 complaints about the system were filed with BOEC since then. Many charged the system is slower and harder to use than the one it replaced.

"This is a good thing," Johnson said of the committee activity. "This is a way for the user to tell BOEC exactly what's happening and to work out solutions."

Also obtained was a bureau report that said 84 percent of the problems have been fixed. The report said 58 problems remain to be fixed, some of them ranked as high and moderate priorities.

Johnson declined to characterize the current status of the system. Although he was among the most vocal early critics, Johnson says he and other group members are giving the process a chance to work before concluding how the replacement system ultimately compares to the previous one.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who has defended the operation of the system, supervises the bureau. She has obtained an opinion from the city attorney's office that says the user group is not a public body that has to open its meetings to the press under Oregon law.