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New 911 system coming soon for those living near town border

NextGen 911

Local officials are hoping that Next Generation 911 will solve problems some residents in the Riverhead Town portion of Manorville have been experiencing with long response times on emergency calls and police or ambulances going to the wrong street.

The Suffolk County Police Department is currently implementing the NextGen 911 system and expects its first phases to be online by the end of June, according to Matt Jones, director of information management for the department, who discussed the new system with Riverhead officials at last Thursday’s Town Board work session.

Residents of Oakwood Drive in Manorville, which is in Riverhead Town but is closer to the Manorville Community Ambulance than to the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance, have said previously that it’s taken 40 minutes for a Riverhead ambulance to reach their homes.

Another problem those residents face stems from the fact that there’s another Oakwood Drive in Wading River, and police have mistakenly gone to that location in the past.

Mr. Jones said areas across the country that border two police jurisdictions have encountered similar problems, especially when emergencies are called in from a cell phone instead of a land line. Cell phone users in the area have encountered further problems because their calls are sometimes picked up by the SCPD dispatching system rather than the town’s.

But he said NextGen 911 will pinpoint the location of all calls, even from cell phones. The new system will highlight the jurisdiction the caller is coming from, he said.

NextGen 911 will also be able to transmit videos and photographs, he said.

Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller said it is human error, not a problem with the 911 system, that’s led officers to the wrong Oakwood Drive in the past.

Clare Bennett, who lives on Oakwood Drive in Manorville, said she believes the problem is a display in police cars that says “Calverton/Manorville,” when a call comes in from her neighborhood.

She thinks the “Calverton” part should be removed. Otherwise, she said, “we can anticipate 40 minutes for an ambulance.”

Mr. Jones said the confusion in the police display is a result of a county program that defines hamlets. Ms. Bennett’s neighborhood is considered to be in Calverton, but carries the Manorville Zip code, he said.

“The best advice is, if you’re in a border town, use your land line,” Supervisor Sean Walter said.

Oakwood Drive resident Cheryl Smith added that she doesn’t have a land line — just a cell phone. She said police have gone to the Wading River location three times when she’s called.

Mr. Walter and other officials then suggested that cell phone users program the Riverhead Police Department’s 631-727-4500 number into their cell phones.

That number is answered by a system, but then prompts callers to press zero if it’s an emergency, Mr. Hegermiller said, which routes calls to the town’s police dispatching system.

Initially, back in 2012, Manorville residents had asked the town to work out an agreement between the Riverhead and Manorville ambulances to allow Manorville to cover the parts of Riverhead Town and Riverhead to cover the parts of Calverton near Peconic Lake that are in Brookhaven Town.

To date, no such agreement has been reached.

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Photo: A Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance vehicle in 2012. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)