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Dispatch center looking to upgrade equipment

Jill Keller, Appeal Staff Writer

Carson City officials are looking into upgrading the city’s 911 dispatch center to handle future regional emergencies such as the recent December wind storm that caused many residents to get a busy signal when calling in for help.

The wind storm that blew through the Reno-Carson area overloaded local emergency dispatch centers, which were unable to handle the influx of calls.

City officials recently decided to begin working with Carson’s Emergency Management Advisory Committee to obtain equipment and systems to develop a call center that can handle such large call numbers.

“We haven’t come up with alternatives yet. We’re still in the investigative mode,” said Communications Manager Laura Cadot.

Carson City’s communications center, overseen by the Sheriff’s Department, usually is staffed by two to three dispatchers. Each shift — day, swing and graveyard — handles an average of 350 calls a day. Normally, only two people are on duty during the day and graveyard shifts, Cadot said.

When a situation occurs that the Carson Center receives more calls than it can handle, the system is designed to roll calls over to neighboring cities, including Reno. During the wind storm, the overflow calls rolled over to Reno, which also was overloaded.

The winter storm that hit the area Dec. 14 damaged 132 power poles and 18 transmission lines and left 63,923 Sierra Pacific Power Co. customers without power at the peak of the storm.

Cadot said she plans to begin contacting similar communications operations and agencies to “see what they have in place.” They will look at different automated systems and phone systems and report back to the committee. At this point, no timeline has been established to make the changes, she said.