A monumental task

Thursday, August 28, 2008

This Saturday, I attended the official open house for the recently completed Barry County E-911 Center in Cassville. I received a tour of the impressive facility from Bill Shiveley, chairman of the Barry County Emergency Services Board. I also should make note that other members of the volunteer board were also present at the event, ready and willing to lead people through the facility they worked so hard to make a reality for area citizens.

This group of individuals set aside hundreds of hours in their already busy schedules to get Barry County's E-911 system up and running. The majority of those serving on the board have full-time jobs and are active in their communities. I've said it before and I'll say it again, those serving on the E-911 board are well qualified, upstanding members of the community who have taken their responsibilities very seriously and have committed themselves to making sure Barry County has the best E-911 system possible.

The task of getting an E-911 system in place and operational is monumental, and the process has not been without its frustrations. The challenge of mapping and readdressing large portions of the county was particularly difficult, but board members and E-911 personnel have worked diligently to solve problems and address concerns as quickly as possible. Since county voters approved the sales tax, the board has also come under criticism, which at times, has been unfair, biased and off-base in our opinion. We hope those who have criticized the E-911 Board in the past took time to tour the facility this past weekend and see for themselves how the board has invested sales tax revenue in a state-of-the-art facility that was built to serve all of Barry County.

It was also impressive to watch the Center's dispatchers in action and witness the staff members interact with one another. There is a lot of knowledge at work in that building, and I believe E-911 Director Pat Leighter, under the direction of the board, has put together a top-rate team who are dedicated to improving the safety of Barry County citizens.

I was also interested to hear how much training each of the dispatchers must complete before joining the county's dispatching team. Before answering a single 911 call, a dispatcher completes 40 hours of basic training, 24 hours of emergency medical training and 40 hours of computer system training through the Missouri State Highway Patrol. This training costs Barry County E-911 approximately $2,500 per dispatcher but we believe this is money well spent. One of the dispatchers recently completed a national training program through NAED to become a certified instructor, so the majority of dispatch training can now be done on-site, which will become a future cost savings to the Center.

Touring the facility also gave visitors an opportunity to get a first-hand glimpse at all the high-tech equipment that supports local E-911 Center operations. The Center is powered by an Uninteruptable Power Source (UPS), which runs the entire dispatch center. The system is backed up by a huge generator that is tested weekly and carries the building for a whole hour on Wednesdays. Another impressive technological feature of the Center is its ability to log and record every call that comes in. This is an important part of ensuring the integrity of the system.

In the coming months, the Barry County E-911 will receive two special recognitions. The Center will be the recipient of a Landmark Award from the Joplin Business Journal and it will also be featured in an upcoming issue of "Law and Order" magazine. These awards testify to the positive addition the E-911 Center has made to the Barry County community. The Barry County Emergency Services Board and employees of the new Barry County E-911 Center deserve our thanks and our ongoing support. The task placed before you was huge and you handled it with flying colors.