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Better 911: Emergency Operations & Communications Center Project

Concept drawing of new consolidated 911 PSAP.

Background


Currently, there are a total of five (5) emergency communications centers that are engaged daily in the receipt, processing and handling of emergency and non-emergency requests for public safety and community services in Franklin County. Only two (2) of the five centers, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and West Frankfort Police Department are designated Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) and receive 911 calls direct from the public. Three (3) of the centers, Central Dispatch of West Franklin County, West City Police Department, and American Medical Response/Abbott EMS St. Louis do not receive 911 calls direct from the public. 

On February 26th of 2020, the Franklin County Emergency Management Agency held an initial stakeholders meeting to discuss reducing the amount of centers in the system and consolidating efforts to provide a better service to the citizens, visitors, and public safety agencies of Franklin County. Several meetings have been conducted since and have been attended by officials from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Franklin County 911/JETSB, Franklin County Emergency Management Agency, Central Dispatch of West Franklin County, Village of West City / West City Police Department, American Medical Response and West Frankfort Police Department. 

General consensus among the group was that a consolidation was possible for some municipalities provided that each entity could reach a point of comfort with the management, operations and financing of a new consolidated center. The COVID-19 pandemic slowed progress however conversations continued over the course of several years to work towards a viable solution. It was decided that professional consulting assistance would be needed to move forward. The Franklin County 911 Board/JETSB secured the services of Mission Critical Partners to conduct a feasibility study on the matter. The study reviewed the current system of operation between four entities (FCSO, Central Dispatch & West City), and outlined the pros and cons of a physical consolidation of day to day services. The study also included retaining within Franklin County 911 calls that are currently transferred/conferenced to American Medical Response/Abbott EMS in St. Louis.


A copy of the study is available for download here:

Franklin County IL Consolidation Study


Consolidation


After the study was completed, Franklin County and the municipal partners met again to discuss the need to move forward with consolidation. In order to officially start the process of properly planning such a huge task, the Franklin County Board and Franklin County 911/JETSB once again secured the services of Mission Critical Partners to conduct an implementation planning process. This process will outline a detail oriented implementation plan for the consolidation of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office PSAP and participating emergency communications centers into a more efficient and cost effective system. Once achieved, consolidation of these centers will result in the efficient delivery of public safety services to the citizens and first responders of Franklin County, which will also include the following benefits:

  • Reduce the risk and improve efficiencies that do not exist today.
  • Reduce call transfers between the two PSAPs and existing non-911 emergency communications centers.
  • Reduce or eliminate disparate duplicated systems in use with limited interoperability or shared systems.
  • Reduce the cost for duplicate computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems and logging recorders.
  • Reduce the number of radio channels in use and improve response.
  • Stabilize staffing in the county by increasing the overall staffing complement in the consolidated PSAP.
  • Reduce risk exposure by providing increased staffing of highly trained and qualified 911 Telecommunicators per shift.
  • Reduce operating costs by improving economies of scale and reducing redundant and duplicate equipment, including the reduction or elimination of ongoing maintenance and replacement costs.

“I wholeheartedly support the plan in Franklin County for a consolidated dispatch center.  As your Sheriff, I have the statutory responsibility to serve as the Supervisor of Safety for the county.  Through my involvement and research of this consolidation plan, I have found the way we currently conduct business, as it relates to emergency dispatching, does not encompass best practices or provide the best services to those in need of emergency services.  That is of great concern to me and the driving factor in my support of this new consolidated center.
– Kyle Bacon, Franklin County Sheriff

Management & Administration


In today’s economy, local governments must be vigilant of rising costs and consider new alternatives for management and administration that save taxpayer dollars and promote efficiency. In keeping with that spirit, the existing administration of the Franklin County Emergency Management Agency was selected by the stakeholders of the consolidation effort to manage the new communications center. 

Some of the factors that lead to that decision were:

  • Emergency management is a neutral organization that currently has strong day to day working relationships with a multitude of municipal and county response organizations.
  • Existing administrative personnel have extensive experience conducting and managing 911 PSAP and emergency communications center operations.
  • Cost sharing existing administrative staff between emergency management and communications would eliminate the need to create new positions that would add expensive administrative payroll costs to the overall budget. By saving administrative costs, the County and participating organizations can reprogram funding to ensure livable wages for employees, appropriate staffing levels and in most cases a reduction of overall costs to the end user, saving taxpayer dollars for participating municipalities.
  • Once fully transitioned to the new role of managing the county’s emergency management & communications programs, administrative staff will ensure each municipality and partner in the system still has a voice in how the system is financed, administrated, and operated. The Director will facilitate advisory committees that will meet together and routinely discuss issues, field operations, annual budgeting, legal issues and other important topics. The current planning includes and an Executive Advisory Committee for Mayors and other appropriate members, Law Enforcement Operations Committee and Fire/EMS Operations Advisory Committee. 

A projected organizational chart for the management of the new consolidated system can be downloaded below:

Projected Organizational Chart – Pending Approval


“Bringing together these vital public safety services under one roof will streamline emergency response, allow for better coordination of public safety services, and allow our 911 Telecommunicators to maximize their skills and talents and provide a better service to the public and the agencies they serve. I applaud the efforts of the many elected and appointed officials who are doing what is best for the safety and welfare of our citizens and moving us away from an archaic system of “the way we’ve always done it”, and into a new class of excellence in public safety & 911 telecommunications service.”
– Ryan M. Buckingham, Director of Emergency Management, Franklin County

“This is a legacy project. The time is now while we control the agenda and not forced by state mandate. Enough of 911 calls being transferred for response.”
– Dennis Mitchell, Mayor, City of Zeigler

New Multipurpose Public Safety Facility


Taking into consideration major systemic changes, new technology, and a co-location of resources, the need soon became apparent for a modern, more appropriately designed and adequately equipped public safety facility. After many discussions with involved stakeholders and the Franklin County Board, the decision was made to pursue the construction of a new Emergency Operations & Communications Center attached to the current Franklin County Sheriff’s Office / Jail Facility to meet current and future needs. 

Funding

 

This construction project is being funded by the America Rescue Plan (ARPA) Grant Program and additional grants from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. No locally generated property or sales tax funding is being used for this construction project. Additional funding for equipment and furnishings are being considered by the Franklin County 911 Board/ETSB in accordance with allowable expenditures for 911 systems in Illinois. 


Communications Center (911 Public Safety Answering Point)


The new Communications Center portion of the facility will include six (6) fully functional 911 answering point positions. The Center will also include space for a secure radio/IT room, mechanical/electrical room, secure file storage and restroom. The facility has been designed to meet ICC 500 standards and will be able to withstand a variety of natural and human caused hazards. This portion of the facility will also have a walk up service window within a shared lobby with the Sheriff’s Office that will be made available for the public to speak directly with a Telecommunicator. Additional restrooms, break room, lactation/quiet room, janitorial and storage spaces have also been included in the overall facility design to support the Communications Center. The Franklin County 911 Board/Joint ETSB has convened a working group to discuss the variety of equipment and new technology that will be included in the new communications center.


Emergency Operations Center (EOC) & Administrative Headquarters


Within the new facility design, an emergency operations center (EOC) room with supporting operational and administrative office space has been incorporated to accompany individuals for the purposes of managing major emergency incidents, conducting training and the general administration of emergency management & communications. The room and supporting multi-use areas will be equipped with audio visual equipment, tables, chairs, presentation equipment, printers, video conferencing and other capabilities needed to conduct emergency operations and training activities. Not having a designated static EOC space has been a major hurdle in the past during Franklin County’s response to major emergencies and long running incidents such as multiple flood events, severe weather/tornadoes, the 2009 derecho disaster and the COVID-19 pandemic. The new designated EOC area will ensure Franklin County is ready to respond to disasters 24/7/365 without delay. Overall, an EOC brings numerous benefits by centralizing coordination, enhancing situational awareness, promoting collaboration, optimizing resource management, improving communication, and strengthening preparedness. These advantages contribute to a more effective and efficient emergency response, ultimately saving lives, minimizing damage, and facilitating recovery.

In addition to administrative workspace the facility will double as a training facility for local emergency responders and at times the public. By bringing the training courses needed by our law enforcement officers and emergency responders to Franklin County, we can reduce travel costs and the requirement for personnel to be leave the county to receive required trainings and certification programs. 

Franklin County has secured the services of ArchImages Architects to design the new facility and manage the process of construction bidding. Design and facilitation is ongoing. The County expects to put out construction bids for this project in the first quarter of 2024.

Note: General floor plans of the facility will be posted once approved for construction bidding.


“As Mayor of the City of Sesser, and Board Member of Central Dispatch of West Franklin County, I am grateful for all of the officials in the county that have come together to make this project a reality. The enhanced safety of our communities is the most critical component to our 911 system.  Consolidating our dispatch centers will streamline this process.  In addition to improving the safety of our communities, consolidation will also increase the financial efficiency of our 911 system saving the taxpayers money.  This is a win win for the safety of our residents and the taxpayers of our county.”
– Jason Ashmore, Mayor, City of Sesser

“As Benton Fire Chief & Consolidation Committee Member it always excites me when once dreamed of ideas of a more unified and safer life for our County residents and it’s responders come to fruition”.
– Shane Cockrum, Benton Fire Chief

“I have many reasons why I support the consolidation of our dispatch, one is the cost savings we get along with an upgrade in equipment. Unified communications will strengthen our abilities to fight crime when we are able to better communicate with neighboring agencies. The biggest reason why I support this project is the fact that our 911 surcharge funds will now be used to serve members of our community with an upgraded dispatch center that will cut down on response times and enhance officer safety through faster and better communication.”
– Ben Burkhamer, Zeigler Chief of Police

“The Royalton Fire Department has always had issues reaching dispatch from our side of the County. With the new and improved digital state of the art equipment that will no longer be an issue. When a citizen calls 911 there will be a much faster response due to the fact everything will be in one location and no transferred calls. As Royalton Fire Chief, I 100% support this new dispatch center not only for my Fire Department but for the citizens of the Village of Royalton.”
– Daniel Davis, Royalton Fire Chief

Current Expectations & Ongoing Actions


  • Franklin County Government has approved a plan providing capitol funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (APRA) and Grant Funding from the Department of Economic Development & Opportunity to build an addition on to the existing Franklin County Sheriff’s Office facility to provide space for a new state of the art Emergency Operations & Communications Center. Construction bidding is expected first quarter of 2024. Facility planning team members continue to meet monthly.
  • There will be three phases to the consolidation project will run in parallel:
    • Phase 1 – Consolidation planning (12-18 months)
    • Phase 2 – Facility planning and technology integration (12-18 months)
    • Phase 3 – Facility construction/renovation and full physical integration of operations (12-24 months)
  • There will be some capital impact costs and transitional costs for the consolidation effort; however, the project is expected to result in long-term cost efficiencies. Some stakeholders will see an immediate cost savings which will pay for their transition costs.
  • It is expected that at least 20 of the existing 24 public safety agencies in Franklin County will be serviced by the new communications center.

 


Project Updates

05-20-2024 – Consolidation Implementation Plan

04-05-2024 – Public Notice of Bids for Construction Issued

02-20-2024 – Franklin County Board Meeting Presentation by Archimages,  Inc.