Upgraded 911 Center is in service

Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
The Dorchester County Department of Emergency Services’ upgraded 911 Center was brought into service last week. Standing from the left are Assistant Chief of Communications Nick Kovach and Director Evdokia Rahilly. Seated is dispatcher Verlon Dukes.

CAMBRIDGE — The Dorchester County Department of Emergency Services’ upgraded 911 Center entered service on Oct. 23. The facility, at 829 Fieldcrest Road, features seven consoles and new radio equipment.

The project took seven months, during which dispatchers worked out of the Cambridge Police Department’s facility.

“It went live Wednesday morning at 5 a.m.,” Assistant Chief of Communications Nick Kovach said on Friday. “Everything is working fine.”

Among the improvements are a larger room, with the additional work stations. In the past, there were only five consoles. Now, with a spare spot in Mr. Kovach’s office, as many as eight dispatchers can be on the job in an emergency.

The consoles have several screens available to show everything from incident information to regular television — with dispatchers on the job for 12 hours at a time, creature comforts have to be considered. In fact, the curved consoles can be raised high enough that a staffer can work while standing. Under consideration for the future are treadmills or pedaling devices that can be placed under the desks, to allow exercise during the extended shifts.

But it’s the new communications gear that mean the most to local citizens’ safety and well-being. The center is now ready for the improved capabilities offered by Next Gen 911.

This newest system will incorporate the more current methods of communication — after all, not everyone uses telephone landlines now. And in an area such as South Dorchester which often floods and experiences phone problems, texting on a cellular device is a good option.

Citizens reporting an emergency will also be able to send photos or video to the 911 Center, a valuable aid as dispatchers work to determine the best response.

“Text is the first part, that will be by the end of the year,” Mr. Kovach said.

Along with this capability will be better determination of a cell call’s location, using GPS rather than the current method. Now, the first indication of a call’s origin is the cell tower that picked up the call.

That can be an issue, such as when a call made on Taylors Island gets picked up by a tower in St. Mary’s County. The emergency services in that county across the Chesapeake then have to relay the request for help to the local center.

“We get calls from Leonardstown,” on the western shore, Mr. Kovach said, adding that it is common to receive information from five Eastern Shore counties for calls made in Dorchester, or to have calls from other counties come first to Dorchester, all depending on which cell tower picks up the initial call.

“It’s very difficult,” Director Evdokia Rahilly said. “It’s not as accurate.”

Ms. Rahilly said after more than nine years of emergency response work in Dorchester, she is excited about the improvements in efficiency that are being made. “I know what the providers are going through,” she said.

Now, with more work stations and improved equipment, the 911 Center can continue moving towards greater efficiency and clarity in communications as Next Gen 911 is implemented. “It’s the first step down that road,” Mr. Kovach said.

Citizen Robert L. Moffett commented online, “It looks fantastic! Thanks for all your dedication and hard work getting help where it’s needed! I know it’s a really grueling job at times.”

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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