09/14/08 — Duplin approves backup dispatch center

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Duplin approves backup dispatch center

By Steve Herring
Published in News on September 14, 2008 10:55 AM

KENANSVILLE -- Duplin County commissioners gave unanimous approval last week to a proposal to build a backup dispatch center for the county's emergency services.

Meanwhile, Emergency Services Director Brian Pearce told commissioners that 8,200 county residents were contacted by the county's new Code Red emergency alert system during Tropical Storm Hanna's recent visit.

The system made about 23,000 calls in about 40 minutes, he said.

The storm and the successful emergency warning test underscored the need to build a backup dispatch center, Pearce said.

Code Red costs the county $22,500 annually and is being paid for with extra funds in his department's budget as well as some additional funds generated through emergency services.

Some of the costs associated with the system's use are reimbursable through FEMA in case of a nationally declared disaster, Pearce said.

He reminded the public that people with listed telephone numbers are automatically included in the database. However, people with unlisted numbers or cell phones must sign up for the service. People also must sign up for the weather alerts.

The county Web site, www.duplincountync.com, has a link to the Code Red Web site where people can sign or have their name added to a do-not-call list.

"The backup center for dispatch we were already planning on, but once again the storm just kind of gave us even more reason to make sure we are working on this," he said.

Pearce reminded commissioners he had spoken to them in December about plans to use leftover budget money to do the work.

Pearce said he was asking to use $150,000 for the initial electrical work.

The project will be put out to bid and brought back to commissioners next month, Pearce said.

Pearce told commissioners the project would cost more than $1 million "if we do it the way we want to. But we know we will have to work to our limits and when the money runs out we will find other ways. We are going to make it functional with what we have."

"The backup dispatch center is something that we have been working on for the past couple of years," Pearce said. "Up until recently, there was a small center that was utilized, but with the increased call volume and the changes to our current radio frequencies, we were unable to keep up with volume or changes."

The new backup center will be located in the emergency services building, with the Emergency Services and Emergency Operations Center.

The total cost of the project is anticipated to be $1.5 million, but it should be operational with a current funding of $750,000, he said.

"The goal is to eventually transition the primary center to the new location and utilize the current center as the backup, since the new location is larger, but there is no time currently specified for that transition, Pearce said.

It is important to have the new center functional as soon as possible as a backup, he said.

"This is extremely important to the county because all emergency response is routed through the dispatch center," Pearce said. "The current dispatch center has battery backup and generators, along with backup communications equipment, but if the building is damaged or unsafe, there is not currently an alternate location."

Contingency plans are in place should the building or backup systems fail, he said.

"We still have a plan that routes the emergency calls to another location and then we can be contacted either by cell phone or radio and dispatch the calls through another agency," he said. "This plan does ensure that calls are dispatched, but there is an increased delay and the dispatchers do not have the ability to access and verify critical information."