The paternal grandparents of the two children found dead in a car behind the Elkhart Police Department last month have pledged their support for a new emergency alert system in Fort Wayne and Allen County.
"My community and friends are still willing to help because we don’t want this to happen to anybody else," Ana Hernandez said through her translator Blanca Navarro to the board of directors governing the Consolidated Communications Partnership.
The Consolidated Communications Partnership – the joint city-county emergency dispatch system – adopted a new emergency notification system called Swift 911. The purpose of the new system is to cut down on the time it takes between when an incident is reported and when an alert is made public, said Ron Rayle, interim director of the partnership.
"This fills in so many cracks technologically that we don’t have today," Rayle said.
The notifications would not replace the existing Amber Alert system, Rayle said. The new system would allow emergency responders to send out alerts quickly while the department takes care of the necessary protocols required to send out an Amber Alert.
"By doing this we can get that first set of eyes out there with a preliminary vehicle description without a plate number, or with a partial plate number," Rayle said, noting that alerts can be updated as more information comes available.
Sheriff David Gladieux said he was not pleased with the time it took for an alert to be sent out regarding the abduction of Liliana Hernandez, 7, and Rene Pasztor, 6. Police say the children were taken by their mother, Amber Pasztor, who later admitted to killing them. Gladieux said the new system appears to be a good fix to ensure delays don’t happen again.
Rayle said the system can be used for other incidents beyond child abductions.
"We found out we can use it to enhance our local tornado warning system. … We can put out our own mass notification for a lost or missing child in an abduction situation like we had with the Amber (Alert) situation and get it out to open the eyes of our own community faster," Rayle said.
Rayle said notifications go out to residents who sign up for the system, as well as any residents who can be reached via their cellphones through a system called IPAUSE.
"The company that we chose has space for 25 different carriers," Rayle said.
The new system will cost $34,995 per year. The Consolidated Communications Partnership already has the necessary funds, Rayle said.
County Commissioner Nelson Peters, who sits on the Consolidated Communications Partnership board, said he thought it was important to acknowledge the Hernandez family’s willingness to help.
"With your help and our ability to get the word out, we will find ourselves in a place where we can look back and say that you helped us save lives in the future," Peters told Hernandez and Navarro.
Although the Consolidated Communications Partnership is funding the new system, the Hernandezes said they would still like to make a donation to the department to help cover expenses. Any donation that would be made could be used to help pay for a public awareness campaign about the new system.
"We want to prevent this, we don’t want this to happen again," Navarro said as Hernandez wept beside her. "Who knows? They could have still been here. We don’t know."
In other business, the board was introduced to Randy Raypole, the new executive director of the Consolidated Communications Partnership. Raypole began work Monday.
The transition is going well, Rayle said.
Rayle held the position for about 90 days before Raypole was hired.