Cumberland Times-News

Local News

April 30, 2010

Allegany County’s new 911 center ‘breath of fresh air’

CUMBERLAND — Allegany County’s 911 dispatchers are coming home.

After spending the last few months at their makeshift dispatch center at the Public Safety Building in Mexico Farms, the emergency medical services and police dispatchers are being relocated to a new emergency center at Constitution Park.

The single-story structure off Dorn Avenue was constructed on top of the former underground location that had housed the county’s 911 system since its inception in 1977.

“It’s going to be like a breath of fresh air for our dispatchers,” said Dick DeVore, Allegany County chief of emergency management, who oversees the 911 center. “It’s a huge upgrade. We always referred to the old center to going to work in a hole in the ground. But this new facility is absolutely beautiful.

“This is the first time that we have had the opportunity to design our 911 center and move into it. The layout is very functional and very clean, and it features all state-of-the-art equipment. It also has windows to the outside that in the past we only dreamed about,” said DeVore, who began his county career as a 911 dispatcher.

The new building was constructed by Lashley Construction of Frostburg at a cost of $241,000 according to National Fire Protection Association standards for communication centers.

Interior work was completed by Leonard S. Fiore of Altoona, Pa., for $550,000. A million dollars worth of equipment installed at the old center during renovations a few years ago has been relocated to the new facility, including a new 911 telephone system that cost $700,000 and ergonomic work stations worth $150,000 in addition to some “security enhancements,” DeVore said.

The center includes administrative offices, a conference and training room, computer room, and offices for supervisors with a view of the communications room and its raised platform that will be typically manned by a staff of six dispatchers. Nine flat-screen panels surround the communications room with each allowing separate information applications.

Since September, 24 county dispatchers have worked out of the Public Safety Building at Mexico Farms. During that time, dispatchers handled 911 calls that totaled 29,131 and 65,743 law enforcement calls in addition to 62,743 miscellaneous administration calls.

DeVore said the compiled statistics indicate that Tuesday is the busiest day of the week while 3 p.m. is typically the busiest hour of the day.

“After dispatchers move to the new communications center, the Mexico Farms location will continue to serve as our secondary communications center with full redundant capability,” DeVore said.

Originally, county officials anticipated that the county dispatchers would only be working at Mexico Farms for a short time and that the new center would open at the end of last September.

“There were some delays through opportunities that presented themselves once the project began — like a $300,000 fiber-optics system for which we found funding that we had not originally anticipated. We were also pushed back at least a month and a half by the weather,” said DeVore.

The center will become fully operational in the next several days, once “confidential systems” are brought on line at the new facility, said DeVore.

The public is invited to an open house today from 1 to 4 p.m. at the new Allegany County 911 Joint Communications Center at 414 Hudson Ave., opposite the Mayor’s Monument and ball field.  “Dispatchers and administration staff will be doing walking tours to explain our operation, how the equipment works and what services we provide,” said DeVore.

The county official also expressed appreciation to the county public works officials who coordinated the project and “numerous vendors who played key roles in helping us make this move.”

J. Robert Dick, the chief of the Allegany County Bureau of Police, who formerly served as the 911 Joint Communication chief, said, “The dispatchers are going from an underground bunker to a first-class, high-tech communications center.

“The citizens deserve a modern communications center, as well as the dispatchers in their difficult mission,” said Dick. “The dispatchers are good and dedicated people.”

Contact Jeffrey Alderton at jlalderton@times-news.com.

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