Sheriff's Office, 9-1-1 dispatch now one entity
Two previously separate entities in the county have now become one after the Haywood County Sheriff's Office took over responsibility of all the county operated dispatch services.
The Sheriff's Office Communication Center and the Emergency Operations Center (9-1-1 Center) have merged into one entity called the Haywood County Communications Center. The change became effective July 1.
Since the mid-90s, the sheriff's office and 9-1-1 dispatch services have worked out of separate offices as separate entities. But last year, county leaders began the process of merging the two services into one as a way to improve efficiency and emergency response times.
In October last year, dispatchers from the sheriff's office moved into the small office at the 9-1-1 Center, located in the basement floor of the Historic Courthouse in Waynesville.
Now, the budget at the Emergency Operations Center falls under the Sheriff's Office budget.
"It's just another arm, another division, of the sheriff's office," Christopher said.
Every 9-1-1 call made in Haywood County goes to the 9-1-1 center. Then, dispatchers push that call out to dispatch at the agency that will respond to the call. In addition to the separate county dispatch center, there are dispatch operations in both Waynesville and Canton police departments. The Clyde Police Department uses Canton's dispatch service.
Bringing the two county services together has already helped to reduce the redundancy of sending a 9-1-1 caller to the sheriff's office dispatch, Christopher said.
As of now, the only thing that's really changed is the name and what budget umbrella dispatch services fall under. People will still be able to call 9-1-1 and the sheriff's office administration phone number, 828-452-6666, and get the exact same service.
"People are still going to get the same level of professional service they get now," Christopher said.
The consolidation has also meant cross-training certification is required, a process that is continuing. That's because telecommunications at each location have had different certifications. Dispatchers at the sheriff's office have certified access to criminal records while employees of the 9-1-1 Center are certified medical dispatchers.
The 2012 implementation of a single computer aided dispatch (CAD) system for all emergency services in the county has helped with the consolidation effort because all offices use the same platform.
The county is hoping to receive a portion of a $14 million grant pool offered by the state 9-1-1 board to fund the renovation of a section of the sheriff's office to house all the dispatch services.
If the grant is secured, the goal is to include an office for Greg Shuping, emergency management director for the county.
"We realize just how important EOC is to Haywood County, and I need him and his resources to be right here with us because there are very few things that, if they affect EOC and 9-1-1 that it wouldn't affect us," Christopher said.