LIVINGSTON COUNTY – When Livingston County Sheriff’s Director of Communications William Mann was in Kindergarten, the Sheriff’s 911 call center was one man with one telephone and an analog radio. Now, his department is four work stations bristling with screens and tools, manned 24-7 by professional dispatchers handling calls that range from local residents looking for the number for the courthouse to reports of smoke and flames pouring from the roof of Kelly’s Saloon.
Since the 1970’s, the 911 call center has always looked for the best available tools to expand and enhance its service to our community, and is now at the ready for the next stride forward. A $4.6 million grant from Motorola will help build three new communication towers to supplement the existing four, and cover the county with clearer, more secure digital signals.
“We’ve always done our best to use the best tools and equipment available for public safety, and this grant means we get to jump even further into the modern tech era,” said Mann. “The new system is digitally trunked VHF High Band simulcasting, which means that all law enforcement, EMS and fire companies can talk to us and each other across the entire county on way more channels. The way we have it now, if a police officer in the southernmost part of Ossian needs help with something, a unit in Lima might never hear the message. We also only have four separate channels for groups of emergency workers who are working the same scene.”
The 911 center already has impressive resources for dispatchers, who pull 8 1/2 hour shifts handling hundreds of phone calls and radio transmissions. There is a stationary bike for dispatchers to stay active while they work, and their desks and work stations raise and lower so that they can work standing up or even jogging in place if they need a break from sitting. The Sheriff’s Office is looking forward to taking their communications system to the next level.
“Our dispatchers and public safety members in the county are second to none,” said Livingston County Sheriff Thomas Dougherty. “With this upgrade, they will now have the some of the best technology to work with while protecting and serving our community.”
Dispatcher Randy Worden, who worked in U.S. Army communications prior to signing on with the Sheriff’s Office 27 years ago, said that public safety communications has come a long way during his career and can only grow from here.
“This profession only goes forward, it will never take steps backward,” said Dispatcher Worden. “Using digital signals has come a long way and is such a huge advantage. Analog systems are subject to interference from buildings, TV, internet, and a million other kinds of signals that are flying around all the time, but digital signals up to this point have simply been underdeveloped. On 9/11 there were early digital systems that failed. Now the bugs are worked out and reliability improved to the level that we feel comfortable getting involved with it.”
Mann said that the updates will also streamline communications during major incidents, like the Main Street Geneseo fire that destroyed Kelly’s Saloon and Honey Girl Gourmet in July.
“The Kelly’s fire was pretty simple for us because we used our multiple channels,” said Mann. “Once we sent Geneseo Fire to the scene and Chief Andrew Chanler told us what mutual aid he needed, they were all on their own closed channel. The upgrade, among other things, gives us even more of these separate channels. That’s what this update is about, improving upon these tools to provide the best public service possible.”