- Associated Press - Sunday, March 12, 2017

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Construction continues at a $16 million facility for a 911 operation of all county agencies and the Emergency Management Agency.

Work on the Tuscaloosa County Emergency Operations and Communications Center is expected to finish by December with staff occupying the building next spring, the Tuscaloosa News (https://bit.ly/2mqNXy6) reported. Work on the building began in August.

Tuscaloosa E-911 director Rod Coleman says the operation will solve the problem of callers being transferred multiple times between agencies and repeat their call because of limited current phone technology. He says more than 90 percent of 911 calls are made from cellphones.

During a call, Coleman said the terrain prevented the cell signal from reaching a tower next to the police department that would have connected him to the correct agency

“One thing it will solve is all of the phone problems we have now,” Coleman said.

Tuscaloosa and Northport police and fire departments, Tuscaloosa County Sheriff’s Office and Northstar Ambulance will all have space in the 27,344 square foot building.

The only window is on the front door of the building with concrete walls and roof. It will be secure and not open to the public.

The idea to include all police, fire and ambulance dispatchers working from the same facility has been discussed for more than 20 years. But serious discussions didn’t occur until 2010.

Around 25-30 new call-takers and administrative staff will be hired and be employees of Tuscaloosa County 911.

A CAD system and mapping software will automatically determine which agency is the one to respond as the call comes in.

“This method of operation will greatly aid the inter-operable communication and situational awareness of all agencies in the facility by having the ability to speak face to face with other telecommunicators in the same room,” Coleman said. “This will be greatly beneficial to not only day-to-day operations, but especially major events and multi-jurisdictional incidents.”

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