Columbia 911 celebrates 20 years

HUDSON–The Columbia County 911 department celebrates a milestone this year. It was 20 years ago—May 26, 1995—that the county’s 911 system officially came online. It took more than four years of planning and hard work, but the end result was a state-of-the-art communications center providing enhanced 911 service including automatic location of callers, computerized dispatching systems, digital mapping software and certified emergency medical dispatchers who, using a standardized protocol, provide life-saving medical instructions over the phone before responders arrive on scene.

Less than 72 hours after going online, the new 911 system faced its first major test when, on Memorial Day (May 29, 1995) at 6:40 p.m., an F2 tornado tracked across southeast Columbia County damaging homes, trees and infrastructure. As the tornado touched down, phone lines at the new 911 center began ringing non-stop. Dispatchers hunkered down and got busy as staff and equipment were pushed to their limits, processing over 100 emergency calls in the first 90 minutes of the event. In the end, the system and new dispatch department met the challenge.

Since beginning operations 20 years ago, the Columbia County 911 department has answered over 1 million calls for service. In 2008, Columbia 911 began answering all wireless (cellular) 911 calls in Columbia County as well. These calls had previously been answered by State Police in Poughkeepsie. The addition of wireless 911 doubled the dispatch department’s annual 911 call volume. Today, the department is working on installation of new communications equipment around the county to upgrade the public safety radio network, and is also completing upgrades to the 911 phone system that will allow the department to receive text-to-911 calls and advanced telematics in the future.

An open house and celebration of the department’s 20th anniversary is planned for later this year. In the meantime, the public is invited to visit www.ColumbiaCounty911.com to learn more about the department or follow Columbia 911 on Facebook (ColumbiaCounty911) and Twitter (@CCNY911).

County joins in crackdown on DWI

GREENPORT—Sheriff David Bartlett announced that his office will join with Hudson Police, Greenport Police and State Police to participate in a special enforcement effort to crackdown on impaired driving.

Statewide STOP-DWI Crackdown efforts start May 22 and end May 26. Memorial Day week is historically a deadly period for impaired driving. Memorial Day weekend is the traditional beginning of summer. In addition there will be thousands of parties and barbeques to celebrate graduations, proms, communions, confirmations and the fact that the better weather has arrived. This combination of factors means more people on the road in general and more people driving impaired. The Sheriff’s Office will collaborate with other agencies and will be out in force in this coordinated effort to reduce the number of alcohol related injuries and deaths during this period.

Clothesline gives voice to survivors

HUDSON—As part of Crime Victims’ Rights Week, District Attorney Paul Czajka recently attended the Clothesline Project at Columbia-Greene Community College.

The Clothesline Project (CLP) is a program started on Cape Cod, MA, in 1990 to address domestic violence. It has been a vehicle for survivors to express their emotions by decorating a shirt, which they hang on clotheslines. They do so as a form of testimony to this extremely serious and prevalent problem. With the support of many, it has since spread worldwide.

The program held April 23 was sponsored by the REACH Center, which is part of the Mental Health Association of Columbia-Greene Counties, Inc. The REACH Center is a comprehensive victim assistance program offering direct care supportive services to victims of all forms of crime and abuse.

Along with members of the law enforcement community, Mr. Czajka stressed his support for survivors of crime and abuse. In a press release, DA Czajka said, “Domestic violence is a horrible crime that affects too many in our community. Since starting as a prosecutor in 1981, I have made helping victims and prosecuting abusers a top priority. It is critically important to raise awareness about domestic violence through powerful expressions like the Clothesline Project.”

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