Open house shows off the latest in communications abilities

Apr. 10, 2013 @ 05:56 PM

Vance County’s emergency operations are completely backed up with a fully functional, now open second 911 call center.

If the worst happens to one, dispatchers can hustle to the other and not miss more than the beat of a couple minutes.

City and county leaders along with contractor representatives and call center staff gathered for an open-house celebration at the new center’s South Beckford Drive location Wednesday.

Emergency Operations Director Brian Short said nearly $1 million in residual 911 surcharge funds went into center construction and the purchase or leasing of all new computers and any needed new equipment for both call centers.

The data systems of both centers update each other, with a changeover in the worst of circumstances where one center is shut down suddenly simply a matter of getting to the other and turning on lights and monitors so operators can see to grab the phones to begin work again.

“This center will be occupied 48 hours every week, most likely it will be every Wednesday and Thursday, consecutive days of the week,” Short said. “The routine changeover from one center to the other should take less than 10 minutes. We’ll get it down to a routine like changing shoes.”

Henderson Mayor Pete O’Geary, in congratulating the emergency operations staff, said the backup capability will be a continued lifeline of protection in the worst of disasters.

“It will serve the citizens of this city and our county for many years to come,” O’Geary said.

Vance County Board of Commissioners Chairman Tommy Hester said the long process has a big payoff in putting Vance out in front of the state of North Carolina in developing the backup capability.

“This is one of those times when we can be out front and be first,” Hester said.

He said Short put it together without costing the taxpayers any additional funding.

The backup emergency call center is situated within the larger Henderson City Operations Center building, saving significant dollars on basic building costs. Construction work included the interior layout of call cubicle, computer server and office areas.

Contractors that took part in needed work include J.L. Williams Construction, Century Link, Granville Communications and Progress Energy.

Short said contractor leaders and staff worked well with his staff, and his staff put in a lot of extra effort to get everything coordinated properly.

“This has been a collaborative effort in every way,” he said.

January and February brought a busy testing phase for the backup center, including work on what Short called a shake-down process to eliminate any problems with the different data systems and communications equipment working together.

Original hopes had been for an open house as early as February; however, that was not a projection on when everything would be ready.

Short said the center integrates all of its systems into a single working unit: phone, radio and the computer assisted dispatch, with all programming applications also working together.

Before Vance County and city leaders decided to go independently on development of the backup center, Vance leaders attempted negotiations with surrounding counties on a joint backup system.

Short said that would have included the added complexity of creating a totally integrated communications and dispatch system for multiple counties.

The Vance system, for instance, is not compatible with Warren, Granville or Franklin counties, so the backup center won’t work as an integrated backup for their 911 capabilities.

“There are just too many vendors and systems available for different counties to choose, and the only way you could have that compatibility would be if everyone used exactly the same equipment,” Short said.

Short said Vance emergency operations still continues to be available to help neighbors if called upon, but it would be without the advanced call-locator database and other capabilities of E-911 being operational for areas outside of Vance County.

 

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.