On February 24, 2011, a group of RACES (Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service) operators and interested citizens took a tour at the Sheriff’s Office E-911 Communications Center, 100 E. Main Street in Floyd. They wanted to become familiar with how the new Center is set up and operated, and to be a support of first responders in the County. The tour was arranged by Tom King (Floyd County RACES Emergency Radio Officer, W4VZH) with invitation from Sheriff Shannon Zeman.
The group met on-duty dispatchers Wayne Howell and Beulah Conner – she handled incoming phone traffic and activities while Wayne told the pertinent facts about the Center:
The new, top-notch facility was several years in the planning, fundraising and building before beginning full operations, but it is now home to a modern radio communications system for public safety services. A total of 9 dispatch/communications officers are employed at the Center, 2 per shift daytime and 2nd shift, and 1 during midnight hours. Wayne explained the important capabilities of the Center’s updated features: The Floyd County Radio System is reliable with multiple UHF, high-band analog (digital capable) options and channels. It is a two site simulcast system utilizing US Cellular Wills Ridge Tower and Verizon tower at Copper Hill. There are also two additional stand alone repeater sites at Rocky Knob and Poor Mountain. Based on population, Floyd’s is one of the most advanced and complete systems of any rural county in Virginia (per public safety communications study, updated 2010). “We have real good coverage considering our topography and for being a rural area”, said Wayne. About 98% coverage for the county is estimated.
The touring group was able to view the dispatch work stations set up with multiple computers and screens, each with specific function. Wayne described the processes which were taking place, and reviewed the information on the screens with us. He showed how by AVL (Automatic Vehicle Location) systems and radio, the Center is able to receive data which shows where the Sheriff’s vehicles are at all times.
He explained how personnel had a phone system touch screen and their method of handling calls, a CAD system to enter all incidents, and VCIN (Virginia Criminal Information Network) which allows for quick retrieval of criminal information with links to specific data for law enforcement, etc.
Wayne ushered the group into another room that housed the rather large and intricate radios and computers, the system for back-ups, alternative power source and so on. He told how raised floors in the room allowed for all the cabling to run underneath back to the work stations, minimizing the risk of disturbance/accidental unplugging and helping to keep things tidy. Professional Communications out of Blacksburg provides ongoing consulting and maintenance for the Center. Henry Henderson, President of ProComm, said “Floyd County has done a great job of upgrading their response system, and first responders are doing a lot with what they have”. Henry gave a lot of credit to retired Emergency Services Coordinator Ford Wirt: “He did more than anyone would ever realize in generating goodwill toward the Center and obtaining grants, including from Homeland Security.” Wayne had given Wirt similar praise during the tour.
The group was impressed by all that they saw, and Wayne admitted “This was a big step”. He shared a few ways that citizens can help the Center to operate more effectively: “(1) Don’t fight, (2) don’t wreck and (3) post house numbers visible so the emergency services can find you more easily”. Don Johnson KF4HDW, of the Floyd County Rescue Squad, agreed about the displaying of house numbers, saying “if your life is saved once, it will be worth doing”.
Members of Floyd Amateur Radio Society
representatives of non-profit organization FAIRS
(Foundation for Amateur Int’l. Radio Service, Ltd.,
www.fairs.org) comprised part of the touring group. Goodwill through amateur radio is their mission.
Luis A Garcia
Proprietor / Graphic Designer
FLOYD VIRGINIA publication
(540) 320 1045 – firstname.lastname@example.org
This story was published in Floyd Magazine Spring/Summer 2011 ~Senior Editor Dee Wallace