Chatham County hosts new Emergency Operations Center grand opening

Dispatchers and emergency operations get new, state-of-the-art facilities


PITTSBORO — Chatham County held a grand opening ceremony for its new 37,435-square-foot Emergency Operations Center on Friday, Oct. 27, at 112 Innovation Way in Pittsboro.

Steve Newton, Chatham County Emergency Operations Center manager, shared that he is proud of the multiple layers of redundancies built into the new Emergency Operations Center for critical systems and equipment.

“There is no one system that will fail and then leave us stranded, whether it's telephony, whether it's data and computers,” said Newton, who has been with Chatham County for the last six years.

“We've got a number of telephones that go over different infrastructure. So we may lose one, we may even lose two, but chances are either another system will heal itself or we improvise and come up with another solution.”

Newton explained that the built-in redundancies come in through different pathways, multiple services and vendors, as well as satellites, so if one fails, it can easily switch over to another one.

The state-of-the-art facility allows for flexibility in different missions whether they are dealing with a natural disaster or a man-made crisis, and municipalities can operate out of the facility if they need to.

Sheriff Mike Roberson noted that the EOC plays a critical role in connecting deputies who are answering calls a lot of times by themselves. “Having a dispatcher back here that can connect them back to other help or other resources, communicating with the fire department and ambulances — all that's critical,” said Roberson.

He explained that when situations like the tornado in Siler City happen, they could get into an overload situation, but “we still have to take the heart attack call… or the missing person call… so managing all that is why you need a space like this.”

For Chief Deputy Steve Maynor, the new facility provides dispatchers with an quiet setting that keeps them focused on incoming calls and relaying pertinent information to the field.

“The distractions are not there anymore,” said Maynor, explaining that first responders can now better hear what is being said over the radio. Dispatchers can hear better two, “and get the additional resources that are needed with the information back to the person that is on the other line.”

With additional workstations in the 911 Center, the new space provides areas that enable dispatchers to operate at par with modern centers and also have areas that can be used to disconnect from high stress when needed. The dispatchers, Maynor says, "feel like they're leaving the Stone Age and being brought into the future."

“Just the clarity of this new system is amazing,” said Maynor. “You're actually able to understand what is being given — the information, which helps you prepare, what additional resources or how you need to respond. Versus getting nothing but static, not knowing an officer or firefighter or EMS worker needs additional help or they're just telling you, 'Hey, things are calm,' so you don't put someone else at risk trying to get to them.”