ST. PAUL, Minn.-- Imagine a 911 call center without telephones.
At the new Dakota (Minn.) Communications Center, handheld receivers are considered a thing of the past. Teams of dispatchers will sit or stand at adjustable workstations, taking calls through headsets while monitoring six flat-panel touch screens.
For power, each of 23 workstations will have 48 electrical plugs. For smarts, they ll rely on three hard-drive towers, or central processors.
With every 911 call, an electronic map will appear on a screen, instantly revealing the caller s location. And with a few keystrokes, the same information will be relayed to a laptop in a squad car, fire engine or ambulance.
If all of this sounds a tad futuristic, it should. On top of a $7.8 million construction budget, the new center will be equipped with $6.3 million in computer-aided dispatch and communications technology.
There will be an open house and dedication at the dispatch center Saturday. The center, south of Rosemount in Empire Township, will accept its first 911 call Dec. 9.
Kent Therkelsen, the center s executive director and former Eagan police chief, believes the millions in expenses will soon yield savings for Dakota County s growing cities and townships by consolidating their call centers.
The five 911 centers that operate throughout Dakota County will transfer over their operations and shut their doors by the end of the year.
We estimate in the first three years that we ll save an additional $2.4 million in operating expenses, Therkelsen said.
As the new dispatch center makes its debut, police, fire and emergency medical services in Dakota County also will transfer to an 800-megahertz radio network supported by nine transmission towers. The county is programming 1,700 radios for first responders.
Dakota County Commissioner Nancy Schouweiler, representative to the Dakota Communications Center Board of Directors, said, It s worth it because it s much cheaper for us to do this together -- to invest in the new technology, the 800 megahertz -- and only do this once, than to set it up in five different 911 centers.
In a typical year, the dispatch center will receive about 200,000 911 calls and dispatch authorities to more than 400,000 incidents.
And the shared 800-megahertz network will allow instant communication between agencies accustomed to sometimes talking past each other.
In the old days, we walked around at major incidents with two or three radios, Therkelsen said.
Other innovations could be just around the corner.
By next year, GPS locators could be installed in squad cars, fire engines and ambulances to allow dispatchers to instantly determine a vehicle s location on a map or redirect a lost driver.
Frederick Melo can be reached at email@example.com or 651-228-2172.
If You Go
What: Dedication and tour of Dakota Communications Center
Where: 2860 160th St. W., Empire Township
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday
About The Dispatch Center
The new center will be the 911 answering point for all Dakota County calls.