County issues 911 Center study RFP

By FRITZ MAYER
Posted 2/5/20

MONTICELLO, NY — On January 31, Sullivan County issued a request for proposals (RFP) from firms interested in conducting an independent study of the 911 center. There were three meetings in …

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County issues 911 Center study RFP

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MONTICELLO, NY — On January 31, Sullivan County issued a request for proposals (RFP) from firms interested in conducting an independent study of the 911 center. There were three meetings in January about the issue of changing the structure of the center so that the Sullivan County Sheriff would have ultimate authority over it, rather than the Sullivan County Division of Public Safety.

“Meetings earlier in January were contentious, but legislator’s have since said it was not their intent to suggest ill will toward any county employees. We value all of the dedicated and professional people who staff our 911 center, our Division of Public Safety and our sheriff’s office,” said Robert Doherty, chairman of the legislature in a statement. “We agree that the job they do is serious and must be taken seriously. We have no intention of disenfranchising our fire and EMS workers nor affecting the great work they do. We will closely review and openly discuss the results of the forthcoming report, so that the end result is not only positive but builds confidence and communication across all agencies and individuals engaged in emergency response.”

The River Reporter visited the 911 Center on January 31 to learn more about the facility. There are about 70 agencies that the center interfaces with or dispatches for; there are 40 fire companies, 16 ambulance services, nine law enforcement entities which include forest rangers, environmental conservation officers from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation and rangers from the National Park Service.

Alex Rau, the 911 coordinator said emergency calls to 911 are dispatched wherever they are needed, be it ambulance, fire, or police. In the case of a call that requires a police response to an in-progress emergency, the call is dispatched to the “closest car” whether that’s the state police, the sheriff’s patrol, or the police departments of Monticello, Liberty or Fallsburg.

The Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office gets a number of calls directly to the 845/794-7100 number, and it has its own dispatch operation. Rau said he does not know how many calls the sheriff gets now, but when the two dispatch operations were merged in 2011 and 2012, the number of additional calls that were routed to the 911 center was about 2,000 per month with no additional staff. Rau said both the 911 center and the sheriff’s office are busier now than they were then.

There are about 20 people working at the 911 center now, and there is an extensive training program. “We have a six-month on-the-job training program, we don’t release anybody on their own for the first six months,” Rau said.

The county launched a new emergency radio system in 2017, and that was built to the specification of 95 percent coverage through the mobile radio, and Rau said the coverage has actually exceeded that. With the old system, which was some 30 years old, a consultant estimated the coverage was 70 percent.
“There are still some gaps, it’s never going to be 100 percent. With our terrain, to build a tower strategically to cover 100 percent would be very costly, and perhaps even cost prohibitive,” but the county is in a much better position now than with the old system, Rau said.

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