New NG911 center opening this fall

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

Tinker Air Force Base is geared up to begin Next Generation 911 service this fall in a new Emergency Communications Center that will bring state-of-the-art dispatch and incident management capabilities to emergency and security personnel.

The approximately $3 million center will combine the dispatch operations of the 72nd Security Forces Squadron and Tinker AFB Fire and Emergency Services for the first time and comes with a host of new capabilities.

“It’s going to drastically improve our capabilities as far as emergency response and incident management, as well as cohesion across the base with all emergency services,” said Master Sgt. Joe Puga, project coordinator for the 72nd SFS. “With working that closely together, all of the emergency services on Tinker AFB will be more knowledgeable of each agency’s capabilities and procedures. I think it will elevate us all to a whole new level as incident responders.”

Dispatching operations for Tinker Emergency and Fire Services and the 72nd SFS are currently separated. The ECC is scheduled to open this fall, but no firm date has been set.

Next Generation 911 is the successor technology to Enhanced 911 systems widely used today. Internet-based NG911 standards, which are continuously evolving and improving, are aimed at catching up with communications technologies such as texts, emails, social media, videos and other data that are incompatible with E911 capabilities.

Training specialist Maj. Kevin Smith with the 72nd Air Base Wing/Civil Engineering Fire and Emergency Services said the new hardware and software in the ECC is designed to handle NG911 systems and their future upgrades.

“One capability is that it will allow us to have better information on where 911 cell phone calls are coming from and let us route our calls better,” Smith said. “It’s a night and day difference.”

Money-saving measures in the project, planned and executed over three years, included reservists from the 507th Air Refueling Wing constructing the interior of the 1,500-square-foot space.

“In the end, we’ve built a new center, upgraded our capabilities to Next Generation 911 and provided redundant capabilities for about half of what the new center would have cost for contractors to build the center and relocate existing equipment,” Smith said.

The Emergency Communications Center features living amenities for dispatchers, including a kitchen, bunk room, supervisor office, lockers and a shower. Fire and Emergency Services dispatchers work 24-hour shifts.

The ECC has dispatcher stations surrounded by multiple wall-mounted monitors. The new system will allow both fire and Security Forces to use the monitors to see the locations of personnel who will be carrying GPS-enabled radios. That feature is awaiting funding.

Seeing unit and personnel locations on the screens will be a great improvement for better response decisions, said 911 dispatcher supervisor Maj. Lori Shannon with the 72nd Air Base Wing/Civil Engineering Fire and Emergency Services.

“It will let you see that Engine 3, let’s say, is at the BX and somebody’s down there,” she said. “That’s not Engine 3’s normal district, but they can go take care of it because they’re right there on the scene. It will give the dispatcher a better picture of where the units are and if there is a way to possibly save lives faster.”

Puga said joining together all the base’s emergency services will speed up the ability to get the right personnel to emergencies.

“Thirty seconds can mean a life,” he said. “That’s where the biggest impact will come from.”

Smith said the base will maintain the current dispatch operations to act as backup emergency communications centers if the new ECC is knocked out of service, such as in a natural disaster.

Other new enhancements and capabilities include:

The base acquired about 40 new GPS-enabled vehicle-console and hand-held radios from Hill AFB.

Joint ECC dispatchers will be able to monitor all emergency systems on base.

Security Forces will be able to answer 911 calls directly. Currently, Fire and Emergency Services answers all 911 calls and must transfer the appropriate calls to Security Forces.

A geographical information system will allow base leadership a full-site picture of an incident with a video map.