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Ohio County Readies a New Dispatch Center for Next-Gen 911

Clark County, Ohio, has broken ground on a 911 facility that will address next-generation 911 issues with new tech and hopes to absorb the Springfield city dispatch center to eliminate redundant calls between centers.

by Jim McKay / July 9, 2020

It is estimated that Clark County, Ohio, 911 dispatchers and Springfield, Ohio, dispatchers exchange 40,000 calls per year—that is 911 calls meant for the county that go to the city dispatch center and vice versa.

It is hoped that will change when a new, state-of-the-art dispatch center is unveiled later this year or early next spring. The county has broken ground on the center, which will include all-new technology in preparation for next-generation 911, although negotiations for the city to join are ongoing.

“This conversation started a long time ago (2012) about building a new center and the potential of combining with our city, Springfield, and instead of having two 911 centers, we could have one countywide center,” said Maj. Chris Clark, operations commander with the sheriff’s office and county 911 coordinator. “Our commission stepped up over the last few years and decided it was time as we get ready for next-generation 911.”

The current center is too small and lacks the technology and backup needed to move forward into the next phase of 911 call-taking. Everything in the coming center is going to be new, including the CAD system and new reporting system, through Motorola, all new radio equipment, new servers, and everything is going to have dual redundancy.

The new equipment will provide more capability for interoperability between agencies and better capability to monitor multiple channels and separate some departments that are currently using the same talk groups.

The new servers will replace servers nearing the end of their life cycle, and will be their “own entity,” having an independent heating and air and back-up systems. “Everything that we have is going to be dual redundancy,” Clark said. “We’ve got multiple power feeds coming in, we’ve got two diesel generators and there’s going to be a backup center.”

The current building will serve as an office and training facility.

“It’s going to make us much faster and more efficient,” Clark said. “Data sharing is going to be a lot better with this new system and we can share back and forth with several different agencies, several 911 centers. It’s going to be instantaneous.”

He said eliminating the 40,000 calls per year back and forth between the county and city centers would shave man hours from the operation and improve response times.

“These people are just making phone calls between 911 centers just to relay information back and forth so we have to cut that down,” Clark said. “The other issue is if you’re on the outskirts of our city and call 911 you may get Springfield dispatch or you may get Clark County, depending on where you are.”

Consolidating both 911 centers is one of the main goals. “Getting everybody in the same room, and the same group all the calls coming into one room we can really cut response times and that’s what it’s really all about,” Clark said.

It’s about a $5 million project that, so far, will be paid for with general funds. There still are some contract negotiations between the city and county that have to happen before the city joins the county and city and county 911 staff will have to train together and learn protocols.

“Obviously this is all new technology and every dispatcher is going to have to be trained on it,” Clark said. “On top of that, if we’re able to combine with Springfield, our dispatchers will have to get together to train each other.”

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