HC E911 Center celebrates success

Published 11:11 am Tuesday, November 28, 2017

WINTON – While a few minor issues remain to deal with, the consolidation of three E-911 dispatch centers in Hertford County into a single entity has been a successful transition.

David Brown, Hertford County’s E911 Director, gave an update here Nov. 6 to the county’s Board of Commissioners regarding the overall operation of the consolidation effort.

“The incoming calls are doing just fine at the new consolidated center,” Brown remarked. “We’ve hit some speed bumps in trying to incorporate protocols. We’ve worked very diligently to remove those speed bumps as they arise.

“In the beginning, I think we all underestimated what was going to be involved in the dynamics of consolidation,” he added.

Brown also shared that since the consolidation of the three separate dispatch points, response times to emergency calls have improved.

He added that all three local law enforcement agencies in the county still maintain a phone that the public can use in the event of an emergency.

“On May 31 of this year, Hertford County E911 became just the seventh in our state to be certified under the North Carolina State E911 Board’s peer review process,” boasted Brown. “We gained certification by following the new rules set forth in the State Administrative Code.”

The Hertford County E911 Dispatch Center opened for operations on July 12, 2016. That date marked approximately four years of work to bring the E911 dispatch points at the Ahoskie and Murfreesboro police departments and the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office together under one roof.

Hertford County received a $4.2 million grant from the state to build the new dispatch center, located on the grounds of the new county courthouse. The center was built with the future in mind, meaning the main dispatch room can handle more operators if needed.

Brown stated that the total calls for service in the first full year of operation at the consolidated center were 26,815.

“We’re currently on track to reach over 37,000 calls,” Brown said, explaining those calls are as simple as forwarding a cell phone call to a law enforcement officer all the way to a multi-page/multi-department call for a major incident.

Brown added that of the 26,815 calls for service in year one, the majority (20,570) were for law enforcement. Emergency Medical Services (EMS) calls in the first year totaled 3,760. Total calls requesting response from any of the nine fire departments in the county were 659.

He said the actual 911 calls received at the new center average anywhere between 1,000 to 1,200 per month.

Brown also shared that Hertford County’s E911 Dispatch Center is now capable of receiving emergency calls by text.

“That’s a process we’re been working on for about one year,” he noted.

Those who find themselves in a unique situation where sending a text to 911 is safer than making a phone call can do so through any of the three primary cell phone providers in Hertford County – US Cellular, Verizon and T-Mobile.

“I do want to encourage people to call 911 if at all possible….call if you can, text if you can’t,” Brown said. “Texting to 911 is a slower process on our end; it’s much, much more efficient to call 911.”

Currently, the Hertford County E911 Dispatch Center operates with a staff of 18 (12 full-time and six part-time). They work in three-person shifts.

Inside the dispatch room are four operational desks, each with four computer screens that the dispatcher uses in receiving 911 calls, mapping the location of the call and then deploying the emergency responders as needed.

Upon receiving a call, the info is entered into CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) units, meaning all dispatchers working that shift can see the same information on their CAD screens and take over from that point.

At the outset of a call, the dispatcher initially asks questions to determine what type of emergency response is needed and where. If it’s a rescue call, then certain questions are asked about medical condition of the patient. Additional information is obtained, to include the name of the caller and a call-back number just in case the original call is disconnected.

After taking the information, the dispatcher enters those notes into the CAD system and issues a CFS (Call For Service) which dispatches the appropriate units, whether its law enforcement, rescue, fire….or all of them at one time if needed to answer the same call. Those responding units also receive a text message, generated by the CAD and the dispatcher, giving a brief description of the call and the address.

For residential structure fires, the CAD map will show the dispatcher which departments need to go. Fire departments in Hertford County (outside the three major towns: Ahoskie, Murfreesboro, Winton) have automatic mutual aid on structure fires – the primary department and closest secondary department are paged out simultaneously.

Dispatchers also have “one-touch” contact with the NC Forest Service, NC Highway Patrol, Hertford County Emergency Management, all Hertford County Magistrates, and even the individual cell phones of each law enforcement officer (Sheriff’s Office, and the two municipal police departments). One portion of each computer screen shows the dispatchers which law enforcement officers are on duty.

If the caller is in another county, the dispatcher can quickly transfer that call to the appropriate agency.

The dispatch center operates 24/7/365.

While the new radio system is state-of-the-art, so is the facility. It contains secured entranceways and all glass is bulletproof.

The facility also includes office space for supervisors, break room/kitchen, restrooms, bunk rooms, lockers, showers, and storage areas. It also features a large meeting room, where tables are wired for laptop computers, as well as an office for Hertford County Emergency Management Director Chris Smith. It can double as a Command Center for Smith and his staff in case it’s needed to handle all the logistics necessary in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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