E-911 center gets back up

Published 6:37 am Monday, June 13, 2016

County 911 service will soon have a back up in case of emergency.

Craven County’s E-911 has agreed to provide mutual aid to Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office E-911 center, allowing emergency dispatch to work through its offices in case of failure at the county’s primary site, according to Vic Williams, the county communications director.

Williams announced the agreement between the counties at the June 6 meeting of the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners.

Williams told commissioners he approached all surrounding counties about the possibility of a Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP) partnership, but Craven County was the best fit. Both counties’ dispatch uses the Viper network and Craven County will allow Beaufort County to put a repeater on top of its E-911 building in downtown New Bern to transmit fire calls, as well.

“All our calls will just roll right in with their calls,” Williams said.

Craven County’s E-911 Center was built in 2013 at the site of its old county jail. The center has similar backup PSAP agreements with the City of New Bern and the City of Havelock.

“I think it would be a very smooth fit,” Williams said.

The decision to enter an agreement with Craven County was prompted by a mandate passed by the state in 2014 that requires all public agencies operating 911 centers to have a backup for taking 911 calls in the event a primary center is unable to receive and process calls. The requirement has led some agencies to create entire duplicate systems in newly constructed buildings, at great cost to the state in grants from the North Carolina 911 Board, according to Williams.

Over the last several months, Williams has been lobbying state officials to review the backup PSAP law, as there are virtually no guidelines as to housing a backup PSAP. A less costly option is partnering with other nearby agencies.

“This will save hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Williams told commissioners.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars that could have been wasted on a duplicate system — by 2020, the entire nation is expected to switch to a more flexible, IP-based 911 system called Next Generation 911, that will allow 911 networks to process voice, photos, videos and text messages from the public.

After Williams’ presentation, commissioners voted 7-0 to authorize moving forward with the mutual aid agreement with Craven County.