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County opens state-of-the-art 911 dispatch center

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Photo by Jim Davis. Prince George's County opened a new, state-of-the-art 911 dispatch center last week in Bowie.

Photo by Jim Davis. Prince George's County opened a new, state-of-the-art 911 dispatch center last week in Bowie.

Published on: Thursday, May 12, 2011

By Jim Davis

After several years of planning and 11 months of building, the new state-of- the- art Prince George’s County 911 emergency communication center opened May 3 in Bowie.

The 40,000 square foot facility cost $ 35,625,008 to build and furnish, according to Brain R. Moe, director of Prince George’s County Homeland Security.

Part of the funding came from Homeland Security Grants and Emergency Number System Board grants the county applied for two years ago in the amount of $ 5,612,883. The construction was also funded by the state and local 911 fees.

Prince George’s County has also spent about $76 million on a new 700 MHz radio system for the county’s fire, police and sheriff’s departments.

“The new system will provide us with more fire, EMS and police frequencies,” said Wayne McBride, deputy director of Homeland Security. “It will also allow us to dispatch the closest police, fire or EMS unit to the scene of an incident.”

The new communication center will dispatch Prince George’s County Fire/EMS units as well as county police and sheriff units. The center will also dispatch 18 of the county’s 23 local police departments, including Mount Rainier, Cheverly and Edmonston police.

The center will operate with 70 911 call takers assigned to four primary 12- hour shifts and four 10-hour power shifts along with 52 law enforcement dispatchers and 24 fire/EMS dispatchers assigned to four shifts.

All 911 call takers and dispatch personnel have received training in compliance with COMAR requirements. In addition to basic training, emergency medical dispatchers have received 2,000 hours of public safety training and must maintain CPR certification.

“We will have the only on-site training room in the metro area for training our new 911 call takes and emergency medical  dispatchers,” said Charlynn Flaherty, director of Public Safety Communication.

Other communication centers, such as in Montgomery and Howard counties, provide off- site training to new dispatchers and 911 call takers.

McBride said dispatchers will be able “to view traffic cameras throughout the county and on the Wilson Bridge. This will provide dispatchers with real time information regarding ongoing incidents.”

Emergency medical dispatchers and 911 call takers will be able to prepare their meals at the center. The center has a full kitchen with several refrigerators, stoves and dishwashers and a large dining room table. This will allow staff to stay on site. At the old center, staff had to go out for their meals or bring something from home, Flaherty said.

The center also has a lounge area for staff breaks, with a widescreen TV, recliners and a computer center.

Also, in case of emergencies when dispatchers and 911call takers have to stay overnight, the center has a bunk room with several beds, a shower area and locker room area.

According to consultants, there may be a need for a new center in 2022 due to the county growing so fast. 

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