ELYRIA — The county’s 911 dispatch moves into its new home today.
Years in the making, the new center at 225 Burns Road features upgraded technology, equipment and further redundancies for the dispatch center. The center handles all 911 calls in the county, determining what services are needed or transferring the initial calls to those departments that have their own dispatch center, director Tracy Slagle explained.
“This should last 911 well into the future,” she said. “911 has never been in a different location other than Gateway Boulevard, so this is a big jump for us. We’re going live with the new 911 call-taking software, we’re also going live in a new building, all at the same time.”
County Administrator Jim Cordes said the new equipment, including all the new lines, backups and radios, have been tested, but that can’t compare with making the switch.
“There’s a lot of very complicated, interlaced moving parts on this that we’ve tested and retested, but the only way to stress-test it is to go live,” he said.
Slagle said during the morning and afternoon shifts today there will be dispatchers stationed at the Gateway Boulevard center, in case something goes wrong and they have to switch back. If nothing happens, services will remain at the new center and the Gateway building will become the county’s backup.
She said once that switch is made, crews will continue to provide maintenance to Gateway, but there would not be someone housed in the building.
Cordes said he is hopeful with the new center the backup won’t be needed.
“We have brought electric in from two different grids, we have both a diesel generator backup and a natural generator backup,” he said. “We’ve got three feeds on (fiber) we’ve got the biggest radio tower and backup radio equipment in Lorain County. We have redundancies on the redundancies.”
He added the soft spot in the system is Windstream, who handles the calls.
“We have made plans for failure of their equipment that we have workarounds that will keep us moving,” he said. “But I am working with our consultants and outside tech people on a plan that will be more than a workaround that will deal completely with the troubling aspect of everything we’ve got being new and everything they’ve got being old.”
The new user interface will allow dispatchers to handle calls more efficiently, getting first responders on scene faster, Cordes said.
The new center features an open floor plan with law enforcement dispatch on one side and fire on the other. Shifts will stay the same, with five dispatchers on days, six on afternoons and five on midnight shifts, Slagle explained.
She said dispatchers have been trained on the new system and are thankful for the support they’ve received from the county commissioners.
“This is monumental for us to move to a new building,” she said. “Not so much the system is great, we’re happy to go to a new software, but moving to a new building is absolutely monumental for us, especially in our 30th year.”
An open house is expected in the spring once staff has settled into the new building.