New ‘voting’ machine will save lives in Clarion County

There is a new voting machine in Clarion County but it has nothing to do with an election. This voting machine saves lives.

The machine was recently installed by Clarion County 911 to enhance emergency telephone traffic.

Jeff Smathers, director of the Clarion County Department of Public Safety, said the system automatically listens to a radio signal sent from any of the county’s seven radio tower sites and sends the best or strongest signal to the 911 center in Clarion.

“The voter is smart enough that it deciphers which one is the best. It does this each and every time the system is used,” said Smathers.

That clarity can save lives in a county the size of Clarion.

“Right now we have spotty coverage in some parts of the county but this voter will actually follow the emergency unit,” said Smathers. “It picks out the strongest signal and that is what is sent out to the rest of the county.

“What it technically does is votes the best audio and then sends it back to us in Clarion,” Smathers added. “It is smart technology and it is fiber ready. It doesn’t care if we use fiber or copper lines. It looks at all of them equally.”

EMMCO West funded 60 percent of the cost. The balance was paid through the emergency services fund. There are no county dollars involved in the new technology.

The emergency 911 system also has an emergency system of its own.

“We have joined a 10-county consortium,” said Smathers. “We have the same phones, CAD system within those 10 counties. We have our own internal fail-overs. We have an off-the-air system internally so that we can continue to work. The consortium would continue the phones and CAD system, the heartbeat of the center.”

Smathers also said that “texting 911 is now up and running,” but he added “we still strongly prefer that people use the telephone.”

“The value of using text for 911 is that if you are in a position where you can’t talk or you don’t feel secure talking you have the ability to text us. We can communicate with you and you never have to say a word,” said Smathers.