Mandated by the State of Maryland, Somerset County 9-1-1 officially went on line on July 1, 1985, under the direction of John R. Somers, formerly the County Civil Defense Director, who had been assigned the formidable task of equipping and staffing the new center.
Initially there were 6 full-time calltaker/dispatchers, a supervisor, and the director. More than 1/3 of the 8-hr. shifts were handled by one person alone. It was not until late in 1989 that the first part-timer was hired, allowing double-coverage on most 4-12 shifts. Today we have 9 full-time and 1 part-time person, all of whom still function as both call-takers and dispatchers, and all shifts are double-staffed. The staff works a 40-hour week on assigned (not rotating) 8-hour shifts.
At first the only supplemental training required was that of Maryland EMS First Responder. In 1996 and 1997 all operators in the center were certified as State and National Emergency Medical Dispatchers. All full-time operators hired since then have also completed that program, and all full-time operators hired since July 1, 1997 have been required by the State Emergency Numbers System Board to be certified as a Maryland Emergency Communications Specialist, requiring an additional 40-hour training class on the college level. Dispatching police as well as fire and ambulance, all operators are also certified by MILES and NCIC.
The first 9-1-1 center held the communications room, offices for the supervisor and director, a half bath, a meeting room, and a kitchen area with a "dorm-sized" refrigerator and a toaster oven. We started with one telephone/radio console, a separate desk phone, a CB, a typewriter, a teletype machine on which we could communicate with the Maryland Emergency Management Agency in Pikesville, a reel-to-reel 24 hr. Dictaphone, and a TTY that required that a phone handset be put in its cradle. There were 10 9-1-1 lines, 2 dedicated to each of the 5 exchanges in the county, 2 administrative lines, extensions of the main phone line of the Crisfield Police Dept., the Princess Anne Police Dept., and the County Sheriff's Dept., and a direct line to Maryland State Police in Berlin. During the fall of 1989 a second console position was added. Along the way 5 additional administrative lines were also added.
In the Fall of 1989 the State teletype was replaced by our first computer with messaging software installed that enabled communication via modem between MEMA and any Central in the State. On that same computer EIS was installed as well as word processing and a hurricane program.
In 1990 our first FAX machine was donated to us by Baltimore Gas & Electric, as they did to all counties directly in the ingestion zone of their Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant.
By July, 1991, a county-wide addressing system was in place as was Enhanced 9-1-1 which allowed operators to see the phone number and address of the caller, and we developed an in-house CAD system with two networked stations.
A lightning strike in the summer of 1993 resulted in the replacement of the reel-to-reel Dictaphone by a digital logging tape recorder on which all radio and phone transmissions are recorded for a week at a time on each tape.
The communications room was moved to the much larger room formerly used as the meeting room in the Spring of 1999 and a new Zetron 2-position touch-screen console installed along with an upgraded phone system and direct access to Verizon's database. We expect our phone system to be upgraded again in the next six months, implementing Phase I of E911 Wireless. More security cameras and a card access system have been implemented in the building. A "net clock" has been installed to synchronize times in the console, Dictaphone and telephone system.
Plans are under way for the upgrade and replacement of all county-wide radio systems for fire, EMS, police, County Roads, and Animal Control, and for conversion of the former communications room to an employee lounge with improved kitchen facilities. At the end of 2002 we will be taking over offices across the hall, currently rented by Parole & Probation. The Director and 911 Supervisor offices and the E.O.C. will move over there, almost doubling our current square footage.
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Last updated: 14 November 2014