The 911 network is designed to connect people in need with first responders and coordinate the dispatch of emergency teams during disasters. It’s a service upon which people’s very lives depend. But in Pottawatomie County, that service was struggling.
As a powerful EF5 tornado tore through Oklahoma in 2013, “the existing communication system failed,” recalls Tim Zientek, emergency manager for Citizen Potawatomi Nation. “Because we have redundant systems put in place, we were about the only jurisdiction in the area that could still communicate with our dispatch center. So that was a very difficult time.”
That disaster prompted the tribe to take action. They took responsibility for the 911 network and did so at no charge to the county. At the time, every agency using the network had been paying a fee, but Citizen Potawatomi Nation waived those fees and provided the service for free.
The real winners were the residents of Pottawatomie County. “The response time is faster and the different departments have better communication and the ability to share equipment and people,” says Citizen Potawatomi Nation Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett. “So it’s worked out as a cooperative effort.”
Over the years, the tribe has invested heavily in the dispatch system. Today, more than two dozen first responder agencies — as well as some 40,000 county residents — rely on this vital, life-saving service.
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