A better way to get help when you need it: Pima County's New 911 Center
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It is the place you call when you are in trouble, and it's about to get an upgrade. We're talking about Pima County's 911 dispatch center.
When you phone for help, a lot has to happen to get the right people and equipment to the right place fast. Pima County's new 911 center is designed to help that happen more smoothly than ever before.
The county wants more space, more modern equipment and more ability to keep the system up and running through even the toughest emergency.
The extra space in the new facility helps operators help you. More room between them gives them a better chance to hear not just your voice, but other sound on your end that helps them understand your predicament.
Communications Supervisor Tony Portrey says, "It's going to help them be able to focus on what they're hearing on the other end and be able to make out what they're hearing on the other end versus all the background noise going on around them."
Big TV's over the call consoles may show weather radar, or news coverage of an incident as it unfolds.
Portrey says, "Something like this would have been real handy on January 8th when Gabby was shot. We could have seen what the press was presenting to the world out there so we would be able to anticipate the calls we were going to be getting."
Marker lights at each station turn blue to show supervisors who's on a call. Operators can switch on the yellow light if they need extra help.
The new system is prepared for all the new ways we communicate in the age of the smartphone, like texting, or video.
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked Portrey, "So if I've got useful information in the form of say, a cellphone video, I could even convey that to you, when this is ready.
Portrey: "Exactly. You send it to us and we can attach it to the appropriate call and it actually becomes evidence."
While the center is designed for that sort of information, you won't be able to send it until statewide 911 systems are ready. That part of Pima County's 911 abilities will be on standby until then.
Of course all this requires electricity that keeps flowing no matter how bad an emergency gets. That's why the center has huge back up generators, and emergency cooling.
The facility should go on line in early March. They'll have about four weeks of shakedown to work out any bugs.
Total cost: about 31 million dollar with most of that from bonds voters approved in 2004.