With the new St. Francois County 911 Communications Center nearing completion, dispatchers who have spent many years working in cramped quarters are getting used to having plenty of “elbow room,” as well as appreciating the extra space available for additional personnel when needed.
“We’ve got 10 positions in the new dispatch room,” said 911 Director Alan Wells. “Eight will be fully functional and then two will be used for call taking. We only had five positions in the old dispatch area.
Wells proudly showed off the new employee entrance, locker room, restrooms, storage room, IT center and a room set aside for law enforcement records that houses all the criminal records and warrants for all of the county police departments and sheriff’s office. He made it abundantly clear that 911 dispatchers have been able to hit the ground running.
“We’re going 100 percent right now — all radio 911. Our new CAD (Computer-Aided Dispatch) system is up and functional. We have five positions at present, which is all we had in the old dispatch room. I’m still on the old 911 technology. We’re moving over live on that in January.
"So, then they’ll all have 911 — even the offices will be able to do 911. They’ll enter the call into the system and then they can do radio from the dispatch area. We can all take calls if we need to, every phone.
“Right now, we’re fully functional on five positions. Now, I have radio and CAD on those others, but I don’t have the 911 over to the new system. As additional dispatchers are needed, up to five more positions can be added. That gives me a large margin for growth because, with the new technologies we’re pushing out into the field to the responders — the mobile data terminal system — they’re going to be doing more directly themselves into the system.
He said that may slow their personnel growth somewhat because the responders are going to be able to do their own entry to run warrants and plates.
"Right now they have to call in here and we do it," he said.
According to Wells, Brockmiller Construction — which is overseeing the $2.5 million construction/renovation project — has done a stellar job.
“Brockmiller has been amazing with us,” he said. “Working with us on what our functionality needs were, because we had to do all this and remain live during our transitioning process. Their construction capabilities are amazing.”
As far as the side of the 911 communications center currently undergoing renovation, rapid progress is being made on a daily basis. Wells pointed over to an area where several men were hard at work.
“This is the former dispatch room,” he said. “It’s being turned into the Emergency Operations Center where the EOC director and his team will meet in times of emergency.”
Wells indicated that the project is expected to be completed on time — by the end of the year or even by Christmas.
“None of this would have been possible is the citizens hadn’t had faith in us and the new board,” he said. “The board appreciates their help and assistance to make this possible. We’re only trying to make the best public safety center for the citizens that we serve.”