You feel safe
knowing that they're there for you, 24/7, 365 days a year.
They are the heroes
behind those responders who are there to save your home from fires and
you find comfort in the fact that when you need help, you can just reach for
The Porter County
911 dispatching operators work around the clock with a commitment to
excellence. They are trained to handle nearly every situation imaginable.
It's a job where every second counts.
But even with all
the diligence involved, emergency response is far from a perfect system. The
first people to tell you so are those at the front of the line, like Porter
County 911 Central Communications Director John Jokantas.
Case in point: a
Chesterton woman takes her children to Porter Beach for an afternoon of fun.
She looks away for a second, only to discover that her 4 year-old daughter
is nowhere in sight. Panicking, the woman dials 911 from her cell phone and
tells the operator, assuming she has reached the Porter County 911 center,
of her emergency.
The woman advised
she was out of breath and that she needed to rest for a second. At this
point, the operator was no longer on the line and the woman thought she had
been hung up on, an egregious action for a 911 operator.
woman found her daughter unharmed minutes after she made the call, but no
emergency vehicles ever showed up.
What may be more
perplexing is that even though the call was made within Porter County, the
Porter County 911 center has no number in its recording database from 3 p.m.
to 5 p.m. that matches the woman's cell phone. The call was made at 4:02
p.m., Tuesday, July 1.
Jokantas and his
assistant director of administration, C.J. Wittmer, said they asked all
personnel on duty that afternoon if they had received the call. After
learning they had not, Jokantas and Wittmer searched the wireless INDigital
system for Porter County and found no trace of an inbound call from the
“The only issue
that is still out there is where did the phone call go. Someone for sure
answered her 911 call, but we don't know who or where,” Jokantas said.
Could the call have
been dropped because of bad reception? Could it have been picked up by
another agency in the ethereal? Jokantas tells the Chesterton Tribune,
“these types of things happen all the time” when it comes to 911 calls
coming from mobile devices.
The reason a call
could get bumped to an agency outside Porter County is that there are
different cell sites along county lines. Towers sitting on those lines can
push a 911 call to Lake, LaPorte or Jasper counties, and vice versa to
Porter County, Jokantas said.
Calls to 911 made
from cell phones “triangulate” to find the best signal and then are sent to
that agency, he said. If most of the tower's signal is in Porter County, it
is likely to get pushed to the county’s 911 center.
are areas where calls could be diverted elsewhere, Jokantas said.
“Being on the beach
with open water, there is no telling where that call is going to go,” he
When a call from an
outside county comes into the Porter County 911 Center, Jokantas said it is
customary for the operator to connect the caller with the correct agency, a
routine that is common practice across the nation.
Jokantas said he
and his team work with the cell phone companies continually to improve
getting calls to where they are needed, but ultimately the system cannot be
100 percent perfect, at least not in the foreseeable future.
“Radio systems can
be imperfect at times, so there is a chance that no matter how much we do to
improve the system, a cell phone call could still get routed to the wrong
agency,” Jokantas said.
Smart911 - a
But there is
something citizens who use cell phones can do to better protect themselves,
Jokantas said, and it won’t cost you anything other than a few moments of
offers Smart911, in which residents can create their own safety profile for
both users of cell phones and land line phones. A profile would contain
important information about an individual and/or members of their household
such as medical conditions, number of children, pictures and any other
related information that could aid in a rescue.
One of the problems
with cell phones as opposed to land lines, Jokantas said, is that when a
cell phone call comes in, the caller is not ID’d and there is no exact
address or location.
These are things
that can be made known to the 911 operator if the person has signed up with
remains confidential and is only available to emergency responder when a
call comes in from a registered number.
“You can put as
much or as little information in your profile (as you choose), however, at
least we will have an address to go by if you do call 911 and cannot speak,”
The web address to
create a Smart911 profile is Smart911.com.
employees will also be on hand at the Porter County Fair this month
informing residents of the free service and helping them get signed up.