Working in a 911 dispatch center requires a specific kind of person; one who is always prepared for when that phone rings, knowing it could be a matter of life and death – literally. Lt. Richard Castle of the Saratoga County 911 Center sums it up by simply stating, “It’s something you can’t teach somebody.”
Individuals invest years of their life into becoming experienced enough to handle the extremities required of being a 911 dispatcher; some manning the phones have decades under their belt. Dispatch centers are generally responsible for all cellular 911 calls in the county and all landline 911 calls. The call center at Saratoga Springs, NY, however, has added an extra level of security to what they do by recently acquiring advanced computerized mapping technologies, which will show dispatchers a picture of the site where a call is coming from.
With the job and workload for dispatchers having drastically changed over the years, it’s not uncommon for dispatch centers to be more heavily staffed and on the alert, especially at the very busy Saratoga County 911 Dispatch Center. There, it’s nowhere near uncommon to have 17 patrol cars patrolling the roads during the afternoon shift, when 25 years ago dispatchers could go an entire night without receiving a single call. The reason for this? The invention of the cell phone has increased call volumes, forcing agencies that once used their own dispatchers to consolidate their operations over the years, leaving the dispatching duties to the county’s center.
“There’s never going to be a reversal of that trend,” Castle commented.
This is where their latest advancement comes into play. The addition of computerized mapping technology allows dispatchers the benefit of visibly detecting where calls are being made. It works by being hooked into the county’s geographic information system, that way vital information such as who owns a residence becomes immediately available, as well as other information, like how many times officers have responded to that exact location. One can only imagine the possibilities this brings.
At the Saratoga Springs call center, dispatchers fielded an approximate 72,000 911 calls and 295,000 total phone calls in 2011 alone. Since 2007, the volume of 911 calls has increased by more than 33 percent, when the dispatch center moved to its current location. In addition, the center dispatches seven law enforcement agencies, 33 fire departments, and 14 ambulance agencies. Having gone digital has streamlined the dispatch process, communication officers say.
One of the best things about this new system is that if it is tampered with or in the misfortunate event of a power outage, there are a variety of back-up systems, automatic re-routing, and additional power sources to keep it running – even in the most dire circumstances.
Edited by Jamie Epstein