SO to get new dispatch

Published 8:11 pm Wednesday, July 15, 2009

By By Kerry Whipple Bean

Priscilla Ellington sits in a hub of activity every day.
The Escambia County dispatcher is surrounded by computer screens and telephone lines, fielding communications for the sheriff’s department, 25 volunteer fire departments and the majority of 911 calls.
Multi-tasking is a must.
But just outside her cocoon of communication, the business of the Escambia County Correctional Center is also ongoing — intake of inmates, transports and a few other jail functions.
So the sheriff’s department is pooling several grants to create a new communications center on the other side of the building, away from the activity of the jail.
Ellington, one of several dispatchers who currently work alone on shifts, is glad to be moving soon.
Chief Deputy Mike Lambert said the move will help dispatchers focus, particularly during a crisis.
A dispatcher must be able to field emergency calls and transmissions between deputies and other officials, look up information in the national crime database, and even answer phone calls made to the sheriff’s department.
Add a crisis — as happened last week when two major accidents occurred at the same time — and there is a lot to keep track of, Lambert said.
Sheriff Grover Smith said the sheriff’s department has been able to combine grants from Walmart, the E911 board and the U.S. Department of Justice for new equipment and office furniture.
The new office will be located within reinforced walls, behind a firesafe door, Lambert said. The idea, he said, is that the communications center would survive a major disaster.
Among the new equipment to be installed is a computer system that will enable calls to be patched to cell phones, Smith said.
The new dispatch office could be up and running by August or September, Lambert said.

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