Mary Katherine Murphy Staff Writer
November 13, 2013
LAURINBURG — The new 911 call center and emergency operations center under construction on West Boulevard is expected to streamline the county’s processing of emergency calls and enable more efficient response.
When completed, the center will answer all emergency calls placed in Scotland County. Staffing dispatchers from the Laurinburg Police Department, Scotland County Sheriff’s Office, and Scotland County EMS at all times, the center will be able to directly dispatch appropriate law enforcement or emergency responders to any given call.
At present, calls from cell phones and landlines are routed differently, and all calls may not reach an agency that can assist.
“If you’re riding down the highway and you see a car that’s on fire, if you make a 911 call either the Laurinburg Police Department or Scotland County EMS may answer, but neither of those agencies has the capability to dispatch the fire department,” said Roylin Hammond, Scotland County EMS director.
The center will also expedite emergency response times by cutting down on call transfers and facilitating use of the same dispatch and mapping technology by all emergency responders.
“Everywhere you have a link you have a potential point of failure, so you’ve eliminated some failure points, you’ve eliminated the time involved — seconds, not long times — but you’ve eliminated that time,” said Hammond. “In a true emergency cutting down on the time it takes from the 911 caller giving their information to actually dispatching the appropriate emergency services agency could be a matter of life and death.”
The project’s general contractor, Monteith Construction, was named in September to begin work on the $3.6 million center. The facility’s concrete slab floor was poured last week, and walls are expected to follow next week.
Much of the cost to build the call center has been covered by two grants: a $2.1 million grant from the state 911 board and $650,000 from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the latter of which has been designated for the facility’s emergency operations center. The rest of the funding, some $850,000, will be drawn from 911 fund balance.
The emergency operations center will serve as a virtually apocalypse-proof hub for emergency personnel to manage their efforts in the event of a disaster.
“You really want an emergency center to almost be the last building standing if you have some kind of catastrophic event,” Hammond said. “If you have to evacuate the population, if you have to open shelters, if you have to feed people, if you have to clear roads… all those kinds of decisions are made in an emergency operations center.”
By providing Scotland County EMS with the ability to expand when needed, the center will also serve to absorb Richmond County’s 911 system in the event that their center is debilitated or destroyed. In turn, Richmond County will act as backup for Scotland’s emergency response system should the 911 center fail.
On a regular basis, the center may also serve to accommodate more than 100 people for county events, meetings, and training sessions.
The contractor is currently scheduled to complete in September 2014. Hammond said that if they maintain their current pace, they should finish several months earlier and that the center may be operational by December 2014.
“There’s a tremendous amount of things that go inside of that building that are going to take a great deal more time than the actual structure of the facility,” he said.