New 9-1-1 centers boost security, reduce stress
The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) is relocating its 9-1-1 dispatch center, moving the hub of its emergency communications to two new buildings. The $41 million project, which is substantially complete, will improve security and redundancy for the city’s 9-1-1 operations, and alleviate employee stress.
Staffed around the clock by 430 police service representatives (PSRs), LAPD’s 9-1-1 emergency response center handles approximately 2 million calls each year. The current dispatch center, built in 1984, is located four stories beneath City Hall East. The windowless basement facility does nothing to ease the job-related stress, tension, fatigue and burnout that are common to 9-1-1 operators.
Anticipating continuing population growth and increasing demand on PSRs, LAPD officials decided in 1992 to overhaul the dispatch operations. Working with Los Angeles-based DMJMH+N architects and engineers, the department designed an Emergency Command, Control and Communications System that would be housed in two identical facilities and incorporate identical architecture for the centers’ communications technology. Splitting the new emergency system between two facilities — one in downtown Los Angeles and the other in the San Fernando Valley — made it less likely that a cataclysmic disaster could affect both centers.
Construction on the facilities began in June 1999 and was completed in September 2001. Built on steel frames covered with insulated metal and glass panels, the centers rest on grids of base isolators. The isolators, which allow up to 27 inches of ground movement, ensure that the buildings can withstand shock, including that of an earthquake as powerful as 8.3 on the Richter scale.
Technology implementation followed the buildings’ construction. Inside, each facility contains 80 consoles, which PSRs use to handle emergency calls. Equipped with four monitors, each console can display real-time information. For example, a PSR can view a caller’s address, location and telephone number on an on-screen map.
The monitors also can stream data, meaning that, while two monitors might show emergency call status, the others might display CNN, local news or a video feed from a police helicopter. The console system is based on off-the-shelf software, making it possible for LAPD to upgrade the system easily and regularly.
Because the monitors are identical, PSRs can transfer from one monitor to another — or from one building to the other — seamlessly. Similarly, the phone and radio control systems, as well as the computer-aided dispatch system, are redundant; if a system fails in one building, communication will be routed automatically to the other center.
Both centers also are equipped to record all communication — including phone, radio and console traffic — automatically. LAPD receives approximately 2,000 requests for evidentiary recordings each week, and, historically, personnel have used reel-to-reel tapes to fulfill those requests. Today, digital audio tape is used for recordings, allowing personnel to retrieve information instantly via computer search. In the future, they will be able to send the recordings electronically, directly to a courtroom.
In addition to enhancing the security and efficiency of its 9-1-1 technology, LAPD has incorporated a variety of operator-friendly features into its new call centers. For example, the work surface at each console can be elevated or lowered by the push of a button, allowing PSRs to set their stations to the most comfortable levels, whether standing or sitting. PSRs also have access to two “quiet rooms,” an exercise room, a fully equipped kitchen, and outdoor and indoor break areas.
In contrast to the old call center, the new operations rooms have windows set high to allow natural light to enter. Each room has more than 12,000 square feet of floor space and is two stories high, giving PSRs the breathing room they need to remain comfortable, focused and responsive.
LAPD began using the downtown call center in November 2002. Personnel will move to the second facility next summer.