With construction work still taking place all around them, employees at the Mills County 911 Communications Center have settled in at their new office in the basement of the county courthouse.
The enlarged, state-of-the-art communications center, has actually been up and running since late June and the facility is receiving rave reviews.
“I may be a little biased, but as far as I’m concerned it’s the best in the state,” Mills County Communications Center Tom Ling said. “It’s a show center.”
With the expansion and renovation of the courthouse, the communications center has more than doubled in size. Ling said the facility will serve the needs of Mills County for years to come.
“We’ve always been a three-position center, but now we have the capability to expand it to four positions and could even go to a fifth position if we wanted to,” Ling said. “We’re probably not going to build another communications center for 50 years. A lot of times, communication centers are afterthoughts – that’s just the way it’s always been. What we did here is try to plan for the future. We don’t know where our growth is going to be.”
From the reinforced inner walls and fire-rated doors to the 9 ½-foot concrete floor base, the community center was definitely built with security in mind.
“We are built to withstand a lot of problems,” Ling said. “I don’t know what the official rating would be or if we could take an EF-5 tornado, but I feel confident we are protected.”
Security wasn’t the only area of emphasis in the construction process, Ling said.
“We also wanted to make sure we had several levels of redundancy (backup power source) built in,” he said.
Those redundancies include a state-of-the-art UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) system and a 750-gallon diesel generator. There’s also a portable generator that could be set up in the sally port (garage) area of the courthouse addition.
“If we lose electricity, we’re not going to lose anything,” Ling said. “You know what happens when you lose your computer, it’s going to take you a minute or two to reboot. We can’t do that with 911 centers, you have to have that stuff up all the time.”
Included in the communications center project is an upgrade in the radio and telephone systems.
One of the most significant additions to the communications center is a touch-screen radio system that allows dispatchers to see the location of all law enforcement vehicles in the county on a real-time map. When a call for help comes in, the dispatcher can look at the map and immediately determine which deputy or officer is closest to the location of the emergency situation.
“We can actually zoom in to the point of seeing a car in a driveway,” Ling said.
Ling said the improvements and upgrades were all made with public safety in mind.
“The 911 center is the heartbeat of absolutely everything that happens in the county,” Ling said. “If you take out the 911 center, you’ve taken out the capabilities for the public to call for help. People don’t know 911 dispatch centers are there until they need help.”