Neighboring counties make differing 911 operations work

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 29, 2011

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — Whether they have one dispatch center or three, officials in each county surrounding Rowan say their 911 service runs smoothly.
Rowan County dispatches all medical and fire calls within the county, but it transfers city police calls to separate centers in Salisbury or Kannapolis.
Cabarrus and Iredell counties also each split 911 operations with two cities, while Davidson, Stanly and Davie counties operate consolidated centers.
Terry Bailey, Davidson County 911 director, said he was a telecommunicator when consolidation started there, and he had doubts about how well it would work.
“But after going through the process, there’s no doubt that Davidson County is a lot better off because of consolidation,” Bailey said. “I really think that everybody still gets good quality service from our 911 center.”
The county began dispatching police calls for the city of Thomasville in 1999 and for the city of Lexington in 2000. It took on the two cities’ fire departments in 1998.
He said there was a “learning curve” during the transition, but the county adapted well, and residents of its municipalities get the same level of service as everyone else.
Karen McDaniel, Stanly County E911 communications director, said consolidation has been good for the residents of that county.
“When you’re dispatching law enforcement as well as EMS and the fire department — especially if you’ve got a call that requires all of those agencies to respond — you’re getting faster service and you’re getting better service,” McDaniel said.
Stanly’s consolidated 911 center came online in 1994, she said, so the county and its municipalities have had plenty of time to work together in communications.
Ronnie Robertson, Davie County 911 communications director, said a consolidated center works best for a less populated county.
“We’re very fortunate that as a small county, we have a tremendous working relationship with all of our municipalities,” Robertson said.
The two most populous counties surrounding Rowan both have separate municipal 911 centers.
Like Rowan County, Iredell dispatches all medical and fire calls in the county. It then transfers some calls to the Statesville and Mooresville police departments.
David Martin, Iredell County emergency communications director, said he thinks this arrangement works well, and it only takes seconds to transfer a call and all of its data.
Cabarrus County, Kannapolis and Concord also each have a separate 911 center.
Unlike the others discussed here, Cabarrus County’s telecommunications office is run by its sheriff’s department.
Lt. J.R. Gilleland, Cabarrus County sheriff communications supervisor, said the county works well with the cities of Kannapolis and Concord.
“With technology nowadays, it makes it easier to get information back and forth to each other whenever we’re doing mutual aid and things like that together,” Gilleland said.
He said the three centers all share the same phone system and the same type of computer system, allowing the locations to work together easily and automatically.
Positioned on the county line between Cabarrus and Rowan, the city of Kannapolis handles 911 calls in three different ways.
Maj. Terry Clanton, Kannapolis support services bureau supervisor, said all calls made on the Rowan County side go to the county 911 center first. The county then transfers the call to the city if police or fire service is needed.
On the Cabarrus County side, emergency calls within Kannapolis city limits go to the city’s 911 center. The city then dispatches its own police and fire service.
When medical service is needed on an incoming call, Kannapolis transfers the call to the county.
The city of Kannapolis staffs three to four telecommunicators around the clock, Clanton said. The system may be complicated, he said, but “it works for us.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.