SKOWHEGAN — An estimated 2,000 children under the age of 18 are reported missing in the United States every day.

For quick response to such calls locally, staffers at Somerset Regional Communication Center have completed training in the Missing Kids and 911 Readiness Project, partnering them with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The partnership is the first in Maine and one of only three in New England, said Somerset Communications and Emergency Management Director Michael Smith.

“Our communities are going to be assured that they are getting the identical level of questioning and information gathering that you get at the national level when they first call to report a child missing or abducted,” Smith said. “There will be no delay in the time all the information is put out.

“Any of us that have kids, we all know — it’s our worst nightmare when a child is missing and anything that we can do to facilitate that return is a positive thing.”

Smith said he enrolled in a chief executive officer training program at the national center in Virginia over two days last year and took what he learned back to his staff in Skowhegan.

Supervisor Tammy Barker coordinated the 31/2-hour online training for each of the 16 communications center staff members. The training was done through the Fox Valley Technical College’s online program, based in Appleton, Wis.

All the costs of the program are paid for by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Communications protocol already had been laid out on missing children under guidelines in the Adam Walsh Act, named for a boy who was abducted from a Florida shopping mall and later found murdered. With the national partnership, Somerset dispatchers now have detailed guidelines for quick response, Smith said.

“The Adam Walsh Act requires communications centers make public notification through the national crime system in two hours — we average about 10 minutes,” Smith said. “We’re now trained to the national center standards.”

Under the project, Somerset staff also created a quality assurance grading system for each call and establishing a check list showing name, age and other important information on a missing child using what Smith called best practices.

“We make sure we do the right thing every time,” he said. “We’ve gone into our computer dispatch system and created a template, so when they put in a missing juvenile call, a template actually pops up and they can fill in everything to find the child as quickly as possible. I’d like to see every dispatch center in the state be part of this program.”

There are 26 so-called public service answering points, or regional 911 centers in Maine. The Somerset call center covers all of Somerset County and 19 cities and towns in Kennebec County, where calls are transferred to the responding agency.

To learn more about the 911 Partner Program visit www.missingkids.com/911.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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