HINESVILLE, Ga. (WSAV) – Dispatchers say renovations to Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield’s 911 center will improve safety for tens of thousands of people on base and in surrounding counties.
Conceptual designs for the million-dollar ‘shoestring’ renovation started in 2013 when dispatchers realized the center’s technology did not meet Army standards, according to Ben Collins, the center’s operations manager.
Renovations have added computerized dispatch upgrades and a newly expanded workspace to the center. Of the upgrades, two, in particular, will greatly impact emergency callers: a ‘text to 911’ feature and high-tech tracking software.
Anyone –especially those at risk of being kidnapped or involved in a domestic violence incident — can text 911 with emergency information. Dispatchers will immediately send help.
“The message [comes] through like it was typed….and I just texted back… and that’s it,” said Diesha King, a shift supervisor who has been using the new system.
Collins warns that people should not text 911 for every kind of emergency. “A voice call is always best,” he says. “With text to 911, call if you can. Text if you can’t.”
Collins says dispatchers are also taking advantage of a free system called RapidSOS. The site compiles data, which can pinpoint a call within a 10-meter radius. With the old system, it was accurate only within half a mile.
RapidSOS can also track the caller after they hang up, which Collins says can be extremely useful for dispatchers and first responders.
“Using RapidSOS with some of the things that have happened here on base…has decreased the response times for first responders drastically,” he said.
Renovations have also transformed dispatchers’ old monitor layout into one that is quicker and easier to use, according to employees.
“We have screens placed in front of us now, so we have everything that we need right here,” said King.
Collins was especially proud of a new stress management room with leather couches, self-help books, and a calming atmosphere. He says he believes it is the first of its kind on an Army base.
“Dispatchers are subjected to mental traumas just like any emergency responder,” he said. “It’s very important that we recognize a need for mental wellness and we are proactive for taking action on that.”