South Sound 911 planning upgrades, expansion

Government: Executive director says systems will be improved, two-building campus built

of the GatewayFebruary 12, 2014 

Andrew Neiditz, the executive director of South Sound 911, stressed the need for emergency radio communications across multiple jurisdictions on Thursday during the weekly public affairs forum sponsored by the Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce.

Neiditz, who recently completed his first year at the helm, offered an update on the fledgling communications operation. South Sound 911 is a consolidated public safety answering point that provides dispatch for police, fire and emergency services.

Neiditz took the role of executive director last February. He said the emergency response coordination is crucial.

“I think it impacts everyone throughout our region and our community,” he said.

Interoperability is the goal. Neiditz cited the impact of Sept. 11, 2001, as an example of that concept failing to happen. There wasn’t the radio capability to communicate to rescue workers that they should exit buildings, not go up the stairwells, Neiditz said.

South Sound 911 aims to communicate effectively, efficiently and quickly between agencies.

When the concept appeared on the ballot in fall 2011, Neiditz wasn’t sure it would make it through the election in a tough economy. After all, it was a tax increase spread across 25 years. Yet voters passed the creation of the jurisdiction, and Neiditz said that’s a vote of confidence in public agencies.

In the next two years, South Sound 911 would like to build a two-building campus in the Interstate 5 corridor. Neiditz said the facility would be state-of-the-art but utilitarian.

The organization plans project upgrades, such as a computer-aided dispatch system, a voice-logging recorder and next-generation 911 phone system.

Neiditz estimates South Sound 911 fields 2,000 calls a day and up to 1 million per year. By law, those calls must be recorded.

South Sound 911 already records them but would like to improve the technology. Neiditz joked that those at the forum should buy stock in Motorola, the company that’s tasked with upgrading the radio and recording systems for South Sound 911.

Next-generation systems would adapt emergency response to the new world of technology. Neiditz used the example of texting. Currently, South Sound 911 cannot field texts, and he’s aware it is a handicap because younger generations rely on text messages more than phone calls.

Neiditz used a scenario about an active shooter in which silence is necessary for safety. A next-generation system would open up new pathways of communication for those who contact 911 during a crisis.

South Sound 911 serves the Gig Harbor Police Department with communications and information services.

Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at karen.miller@gateline.com. Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_karen.

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