By GEORGE MAZURAK of the Tribune's staff
Story ran on Tuesday, December 05 2000
Columbia and Boone County officials last night observed completion of a decade long effort to improve the 911 operation by dedicating the new Public Safety Joint Communications Center.
|Masonda Wheatley looks up driver registration and warrant
information last night for Columbia and Boone County officers from the new
Public Safety Joint Communications Center at the police department at Seventh
and Walnut streets. Operations moved in early October; officials dedicated
the center yesterday.
Dan Gill photo
Construction began a year ago inside the downtown building that formerly housed the Columbia Fire Department Station No. 1.
The 911 center formerly occupied space below ground level in the same building, accessible through a Columbia Police Department annex. Renovations of the police building and 911 center are costing $1.5 million worth of sales tax revenue first approved by voters in 1991.
The new operations room features nine workstations and new communications monitors for operators, who are distributed in a room that has at least twice the square footage previously occupied by the center. A glazed window lets in muted daylight.
With recessed lighting and dark gray carpet on the floor and walls, the center's subdued environment contrasts with the frantic nature of emergency communications.
"It's great to walk into an operations center where everybody's smiling," center administrator Jim McNabb said today. "The work environment is much improved."
Administrative coordinator Joe Piper said each workstation features two large video monitors that enable operators to monitor computer-aided dispatch transmissions. A separate monitor for radio transmissions allows operators to change channels, say, from police to fire, by pressing a fingertip to the screen.
The Orbacom radio software automatically saves 60 minutes of recorded calls at each workstation, Piper said.
Hard-to-understand messages can be readily played back at a slower speed to make them more comprehensible if a 911 caller hangs up abruptly, he said.
The radio gear takes up less space than large consoles that formerly towered over each operator.
Each workstation also features a pole with an amber light triggered by an incoming call and a red light triggered by a "major event," Piper said. The lights more readily signal the status of each operator.
In another improvement, all recording and transmission equipment is linked to a master clock set by satellite link to Greenwich Mean Time.
New communications equipment cost $468,000 and was financed by a 1995 city sales tax.
"They're now in a state-of-the-art facility," said presiding county commissioner Don Stamper, who is chairman of the Joint Communications Advisory Committee. "It's a drastic improvement in their environment for the better... a drastic improvement that was overdue."
Reach George Mazurak at (573) 815-1722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.