(TNS) — After a year of planning, officials with Chatham County and the city of Savannah, Ga., announced their first concrete steps to improving the local E911 Center through a consolidation of operations.
During a joint press conference with the county and municipalities within county lines, County Manager Lee Smith announced that the county would be spearheading operations and control of the E911 Center in the future.
"As I've been out in the community, I hear from people 'this has been a long time coming'," Smith said Wednesday. "It's a long time coming to consolidate 911 dispatching into one system. We know that we've got an antiquated system as far as process."
In fall 2017, county and city officials agreed to transfer the operation and control of the E911 Center from the city of Savannah to Chatham County, with the hopes of promoting improvements in public safety communications across all communities and stakeholders throughout Chatham County.
The change of administration was also made to ease the financial burden incurred by the city of Savannah during its control of the E911 Center.
"About a year and a half ago we approached the county and our sister municipalities and said the city of Savannah is in a position where we can no longer afford to continue to provide this service on the countywide basis," said Savannah City Manager Rob Hernandez. "We sat down with all the city managers and the county managers and said we need a new approach and we need your help in getting there."
The first step toward change was evaluation of the current system, Smith said.
Operations were evaluated by Winbourne Consulting, LLC. Based on recommendations from the Winbourne evaluation, the county contracted with New Jersey-based IXPCorp. for day-to-day management services of the E911 Center, as well as additional consulting services needed for the transition.
In June, county commissioners adopted a resolution to create an E911 executive advisory board.
"The EAB has adopted a new governance structure," Smith said. "We have formed and recommended review committees. These review committees — made up of police, fire, EMS — are going to make recommendations as to procedures and how we operate in the future. This is not just about fire. It's not just about police. It's not just about EMS. It's about all of the community."
Officials are also preparing for Next Generation E911, updated software that will deploy nationwide in 2020. The new software will compensate for new smart technology and comply with the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials International standards.
"Everyone has [a smartphone]," Smith said. "So how to use smart technology to communicate with 911 will be looked at. It's something that we will not go into lightly because these are major investments."
Officials say that residents should not expect to see any changes, but major changes will be made on the back end of operations. For now, the next few months will focus on reviewing current strategies for improvement.
"The public should notice no difference," Smith said. "If there's a difference, then we've made a mistake. This should be (a seamless transition.) For all of us, we should see the difference in timing of calls."
©2018 Savannah Morning News (Savannah, Ga.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.