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N.D. emergency centers took 205,000 calls in 2009

BISMARCK -- Nearly 205,000 911 calls were made to North Dakota emergency centers last year. Add in the administrative calls, and North Dakota's 22 public safety answering points handled about 1.2 million phone calls in 2009. The statistics were p...

BISMARCK -- Nearly 205,000 911 calls were made to North Dakota emergency centers last year.

Add in the administrative calls, and North Dakota's 22 public safety answering points handled about 1.2 million phone calls in 2009.

The statistics were part of an Emergency Services Communication in North Dakota report presented Thursday to lawmakers on the interim Taxation Committee.

In 2009, the Red River Regional Dispatch Center in Fargo received 67,573 calls to 911, while the Grand Forks 911 Center received about 20,000.

Stark/Dunn 911 and Stutsman County Communications each received about 5,000 calls to 911.

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The report found "the rapid and sustained growth in 911 calls (13 percent per year) is rather startling when contrasted with the rather stable population of the state ... clearly, much of this results from the 'multiple calls' for the same emergency that become common with the proliferation of cellular phones."

About two-thirds of 911 calls are now being made from cell phones, said Terry Traynor of the North Dakota Association of Counties.

Citing nationwide efforts to overhaul the 911 system to meet the country's advancing telecommunications needs, the report recommends a number of steps to improve and support public safety services.

One of the state's efforts involves aerial photography to provide accurate mapping. A pilot project was successfully conducted in McHenry County and will expand statewide.

The plane flies at 6,000 to 9,000 feet, and photos capture a 9-inch degree of accuracy, said Greg Wilz of the state Department of Emergency Services.

Sen. Connie Triplett, D-Grand Forks, said the public should be notified before mapping of their city is conducted.

"It seems to me just from a standpoint of respecting people's privacy ... you should at the very least do a press release and notify the media before you're doing the (flyover) so people have the knowledge and can make choices not to be sunbathing in their backyard when you're taking these pictures," she said.

Wilz said that wouldn't be an issue and face recognition isn't possible, but he would consider the recommendation.

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In other business Thursday, lawmakers heard from Dakota Salts LLC, which is interested in potash mining in Burke County in northwestern North Dakota. Potash is primarily used in fertilizer production.

The Williston Basin contains 33 percent of the world's potash reserve and has 20 billion to 50 billion tons of recoverable mineral, said J.T. Starzecki, Dakota Salts' senior director of U.S. operations.

He estimated Dakota Salts would create 200 to 300 full- and part-time positions in the state.

Rep. Glen Froseth, R-Kenmare, said the state's share of money from the mining should go into a permanent fund to benefit future generations. The committee will discuss potash mining and taxation issues further at its August meeting.

Teri Finneman is a multimedia

correspondent for Forum

Communications Co.

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