Upgrades planned for Horry County 911 system thanks to federal funding

Upgrades planned for South Carolina 911 systems to improve Horry County call center

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - More than $2 million worth of upgrades are planned for 911 call centers across South Carolina.

The funding coming from the U.S. Departments of Commerce and Transportation will help improve 911 systems throughout the state and in Horry County.

Horry County 911 dispatchers field an average of roughly 2,000 calls a day, which is about one call per minute. But the way those calls come in are changing.

“Twenty-nine years ago, almost 30, when we started 911 everything was wire line. It was pretty cut and dry. You picked up your home phone, dialed 911 and we answered you. We had all your information," said Renee Hardwick, director of Horry County 911.

Now, more than 80% of calls being made to 911 in Horry County are wireless. As technology evolves, call centers must keep up. With the help of federal grant money, 911 systems in South Carolina will be upgraded to Next Generation 911 (NG911) capabilities, making call centers faster, and more resilient.

“Now the next thing is the Z access. So you take a hotel at the beach. They have 30 floors in their hotel. So you call and we can plot where you are in the hotel. But now the Z access is what floor are you on," said Hardwick.

The new funding will support improved networks, better mapping systems, and capabilities like image and video processing.

“As we move forward with technology we’re going away from wire line stuff, and... things that are connected by cables. There are lot of digital things going on out there and we have to prepare for that. That’s the time that we’re living in," said Hardwick.

Hardwick said they’re already planning to roll out 911 text messaging by the end of the year, which can help callers who are unable to speak, or those in situations where making a phone call could put the caller in danger.

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