STATE-OF-THE-ART SYSTEM HANDLES AREA EMERGENCY 911 CALLS

STATE-OF-THE-ART SYSTEM HANDLES AREA EMERGENCY 911 CALLS

When an emergency crops up in Doña Ana County, residents know that the number to dial is 911. What they may not know is where that call is answered, or by whom, or in what way emergency services are dispatched.
The Mesilla Valley Regional Dispatch Authority is located in the county’s governmental complex east of the Courthouse, at 130 W. Lohman Ave. Many long-time Las Crucens remember the building as the former home of Doña Ana Savings and Loan.
The building was substantially remodeled last summer to provide more work space and newer equipment for the dispatchers and administrators who oversee the call center on a daily basis. A whole new system came on line just before midnight on Sept. 14, 1999, when, at about 10:45 p.m., with U.S. West technicians and trainers and two shifts of emergency dispatchers on hand, the entire emergency dispatch operation moved from cramped quarters with antiquated equipment in one sector of the building to new, spacious headquarters sporting state-of-the-art, Y2K-compliant equipment in a large room specially renovated for the conversion.
The transition took six months of building renovations, a month of staff training and five minutes of line transfers Tuesday to accomplish. Within minutes, dispatchers were using the new equipment in the new dispatch headquarters, while the old room and its equipment cooled down and grew quiet.
The new equipment allows operators to dispatch emergency services with a touch of a button while simultaneously updating the county’s entire database to reflect the nature, time and location of the call. Each incoming 911 call displays the address and telephone number of the call, which dispatchers verify while they obtain more specific information about the nature of the emergency at hand.
The new system replaces a cumbersome process that had operators talking on telephones and radios, all while trying to type and fill out triplicated forms by hand. The new system also allows dispatchers to communicate with deaf residents by using special software installed at each work station.
Funded by E-911 charges that are assessed to each telephone line in the county, the $528,000 dispatch system is fully redundant and backed up by generators, battery supplies and a smaller, twin dispatch system located in Hatch.
Under state law, each residential and commercial telephone line is assessed a 51-cent monthly fee dedicated to enhanced 911 services. The state Legislature will be asked in the upcoming legislative session to consider a similar monthly fee for cellular phones, which would outfit 911 systems to pinpoint the nearest relay tower from which a cellular call is originating. The new system in Doña Ana County is equipped to handle that technology if and when the Legislature approves the assessment on cell phone usage.
The main dispatch facility in Las Cruces now handles eight incoming emergency lines and six administrative lines. Those capabilities can be upgraded to as many as 266 total lines as growth dictates.
Doña Ana County budgeted more than $136,000 for the renovations leading up to the conversion, including a new roof, new furniture and interior and exterior remodeling. The result is a work space almost triple the size and capacity of the old space in the same building.
The old space has been remodeled as a conference and training center.