BATAVIA — Upgrades in Emergency 911 Dispatch Center technology, costing roughly $350,000 will get underway in late February, with most of the cost to be grant-funded.
All the furniture in the dispatch center will be replaced. Though the furniture is years old, it is used all the time, Director of Emergency Communications Frank Riccobono said.
“It equates to about 45-50 years of wear and tear,” he said.
There will be a new floor, Riccobono said Thursday.
“All the cables for all the computers is all being replaced with updated, current technology,” he said Thursday. “With the room torn apart, that’s the easiest time to run cables that are capable of faster speeds.”
The fact that furniture os already 15 years old affects longevity, he said, noting it’s hard to tell when the next renovation of the center will be.
“The video wall will be replaced with, essentially, TV monitors that will replace the function of the video wall,” Riccobono said. “There’s mapping, there’s security cameras. There’s other applications such as displaying the CAD, so jobs that are pending. Weather — we usually have the weather up there so can keep an eye on the weather. The furniture, a lot of the parts for the furniture are no longer available.
“That’s going to give us some more flexibility, where the original was strictly at the front of the room. With the redesign of the dispatch center that will be starting in February, there will be an additional spot in there for another dispatcher,” Riccobono said.
Switching to TV consoles will save the county roughly $200,000, Riccobono said.
Two unmanned call-taker positions and combine them into a full CAD station so it has CAD and radio.
“We’re adding one position. It’s just a physical position, not a person. They’re work stations that are going to be changed from call-taking only to where they can do full dispatching from their position..The console will be able to do more than just take calls. They’ll be able to dispatch police, fire. The only time we really man them is during a storm.”
A vendor may remove the 15-year-old video wall for free.
The existing video wall is outdated, has no value, and needs to be replaced, Sheriff William Sheron Jr., Riccobono, and IT Director Michael Burns determined.
“Both the storm of ‘21 (December 2021) and the blizzard (of December 2022), every position in that room was staffed at peak time, this will give us an extra space,” Riccobono said. “By going to the TV styles as opposed to the video wall, we’re actually planning on putting them on both sides of the room. Essentially, a lot of what we’re being asked to monitor is more than the video wall is capable of.”
County officials say the firm Activu of Rockaway, N.J., would remove and dispose of the existing, outdated video wall at no charge. The county proposes entering an agreement with the vendor Activu. The Public Service Committee and Ways & Means Committee supported approval of the proposed agreement.
The county will cover incidental costs for items that are considered to be maintenance, such as painting of the walls.
Riccobono said the department is still waiting for the contractor to give it a project start date.
“It’s supposed to start late February,” he said, noting the work will last about eight weeks.”
The dispatch center will be split into two technologically, so that if one half of the room goes down or has to be taken off line, the other half of the center can still function. There have been times in the past when the dispatch center has had to move to its backup center.
At Tuesday’s Public Service Committee meeting, Riccobono said he got some figures on a replacement wall.
“You don’t even want to know,” he told the committee, shaking his head and laughing. “We’d be upwards of a quarter of a million dollars. It was kind of a no-brainer.”
Committee Chairman Gary Maha asked if there were any problems with phone service and if there were enough lines coming in to handle all the calls during last month’s holiday weekend blizzard.
“We’re very, very lucky, for lack of a better word, during the entire blizzard, there were only … I believe the number was 28 calls that did not receive an answer,” Riccobono said. “That’s not 911 — those are the seven-digit ones. Any of the 911 calls that we received where people hung up, we were able to call them back. When you figure the thousands of calls we took during the blizzard, there were only 28 that didn’t get an answer We’re assuming those people called back if it was a true emergency, but I think that’s outstanding for the sheer amount of calls that we got in. Typically what we would do in a week, we did in three days.”
Most of those calls were from stranded people and a lot of people called back.
“The other thing we ran into — and I found out some additional information … a lot of people, when they didn’t get the answer they wanted — they wanted immediately to be rescued, then they started cop-shopping. They started calling the Batavia police number. Then they started calling the sheriff’s number or the Le Roy number trying to get help,” Riccobono said. “I found out over the weekend that they were even calling fire stations.”
Riccobono said he’s taken calls from people in fires and accidents.
“I’ve never seen as many people panicked, and I’m not degrading them at all, but these people were in fear of their life and they were doing whatever they could to try and help themselves,” he said. The people were woefully unprepared for travel during the blizzard, Riccobono said.