News : Yakima County Answers Long-term Needs with New 911 Call Center
Yakima, WA, USA, April 30, 2015 -- Yakima police and fire dispatchers and 911 operators are leaving their cramped quarters above Yakima’s Law and Justice Center for a roomier home in the former restitution center in Union Gap.
Crews are setting up work-stations and radios and installing computers in preparation, with a target date of May 20 for the new center to be fully operational.
For an operation that employs 32 workers, the move to a more suitable facility is long overdue, county officials say.
"It’s a nice, modern, up-to-date facility," Yakima County Commissioner Rand Elliott said. "There’s lots of capacity there."
The new environs will have much more room for workers to maneuver between computer monitors, radios and telephones as they deal with emergency calls, dispatch police and firefighters to incidents and talk callers through emergencies until help arrives.
Much work has been done at the former restitution center, at 2403 S. 18th St., to accommodate 911 and dispatch services. A large backup generator and antennas were installed, and miles of wire for computers and other equipment have been neatly placed under a raised floor and concealed in a conduit.
Attached to the south wall are four large flat-screen monitors that will display incoming calls, maps and news feeds. Other walls are lined with windows and administrative offices.
At more than 15,000 square feet, the new location is roughly twice the size of the existing South Third Street facility, where there are no windows and desks bump up against one another.
"We’re finally getting a structure that accommodates the needs of Yakima County," Communications Manager Brad Coughenour said. "It’s going to be a good addition to the county."
The city operates 911 services — a county function — under an operating agreement with the county. A few years ago, county officials began eyeing the former restitution center as a place to house the 911 call center and other administrative offices that were running short of space.
The county purchased the 27,000-square-foot building in 1999 to house low-level offenders and inmates held under contracts with other communities. But the building became idle in 2006, when the new jail was built on Pacific Avenue.
Since then, the Washington State University Extension, the Yakima Valley Office of Emergency Management and the county’s Emergency Medical Services have been housed in the structure.
The transfer of the call center gained traction in 2014, when the city and the county reached a 30-year operating agreement.
The new facility will be roomy enough to accommodate dispatch operations from other agencies, such as the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office and Yakima County Fire District 5, Elliott said.
"When we built it, we said, ‘Let’s build it for 20 years,’" he said. "We’re not going to outgrow this building in five years or anything."
"It’s all been updated and modernized with the latest equipment that’s needed for an operation like that," Elliott said.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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