There are bad things about living in a valley. (See: Air quality, awful.) But there are also good things. One of the good things is that most of us have seen our community from above.
We see how the megalopolis that is Salt Lake County extends from north to south, between mountain ranges and a massive lake, with no obvious lines of division or frontiers.
It’s like that on the ground, too. Unless you look sharp, it can be all but impossible to know when you’ve left Salt Lake City for South Salt Lake, Taylorsville for Kerns, Midvale for Cottonwood Heights. It was only recently that some parts of West Valley City were recognized by the U.S. Postal Service as being separate from Salt Lake City.
The ever-growing realization that the community should receive government services based on how we live, not how someone a long time ago drew some lines on a map, has led to an increasing role for county government and for multi-city agencies such as the Unified Police Department and the Unified Fire Authority.
And it is the solid reasoning behind the proposal from Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams that there should be another step taken toward managing vital public services in a way that ignores bureaucratic boundaries and treats the community as the single entity that, in many ways, it is.
The newest plan is to take a windfall of funds the county recently received from the state — $1.4 million that had been erroneously allocated to a clutch of area redevelopment agencies — and use it to unify the 911 emergency dispatch services for police, fire, EMS and other emergency services in the valley.
The current system is not as much of a crazy quilt as it might be. Basically, there are two 911 systems, one that serves Salt Lake City, Sandy and the UPD, and another that serves everyone else. Neither is thought to be faulty or obsolete, except for the fact that they do not talk to one another.
McAdams’ proposal, immediately ratified by a unanimous County Council, is to quickly figure out a way to merge the platforms, or at least make them compatible. Then no one reporting a fire, a crime or a heart attack will ever face the possibility of being routed to a center that cannot help them and having to make another call or be transferred, only to have to explain their situation all over again.
There is an old sheriff’s joke about always referring to his emergency call system as 9-1-1, rather than 9-11, because panicked people can freeze up looking for the 11 button on their phone. People in a crisis don’t always know what to do. The system should not make it harder than it already is.
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