The County Scene by Susan Morgan – Emergency Communications

Emergency Communications

From an early age, all of us are trained to dial 911 when we need help. In Douglas County, emergency communications is a critical piece of our Public Safety function. When you dial 911, your call is quickly answered by an emergency Communications Officer who is sitting in a technologically sophisticated work center that connects you with all emergency services in the county.

When you dial 911, the Communications Officer will quickly assess your need for service and dispatch needed emergency services as they are speaking to you. These folks are highly trained in the operation of the technology and how to effectively deal with people who are under great stress. They are called upon to give instruction on medical procedures, like dealing with heart attacks or childbirth, and are able to instill a sense of calm while responders are dispatched. The dispatcher will then stay in communication with responders until the incident is resolved, aiding in any additional backup or communication that is necessary. 911 is always staffed 24 hours each day, 7 days each week. In addition, all calls and conversations are recorded to provide a permanent record for backup and investigation.

We owe our Emergency dispatchers a deep debt of gratitude. They are the first line of communication between a distressed citizen and the first responders that will help them.

Dispatchers make a positive and powerful difference again and again, in very stressful situations. They also provide an emergency outreach phone notification system called “reverse 911”. This service calls county residents to warn of emergency situations like wildfire evacuations, amber alerts, and public safety emergencies. By law, land lines are automatically on the phone list, but cell phone and VOIP lines are not. You must be registered to receive the emergency warnings. Register at: http://www.dcso.com/dccens/dccens_main.asp

To provide 911 emergency service this fiscal year will cost about $2 million. The biggest cost is the dispatchers. 20 FTE (full time equivalent) positions staff the operation for a budgeted $1.9 million, 97% of the total funding. The remaining 3% of the costs pay for supplies and services, mostly software costs.

Contracts for service provided to other jurisdictions, and the E 911 tax (.75/month) that is part of your phone bill, pay for about 63% of the costs of operating 911. County reserve funds and a transfer from the Sheriff’s enforcement budget (mostly funded by property tax and reserve funds) pay for the remaining 37%.

Susan always welcomes your questions or comments. Please contact her by email at morgan@co.douglas.or.us; by mail at Douglas County Courthouse, Room 217, 1036 SE Douglas, Roseburg, 97470; or by phone at 440-4201.

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