"The mission of the Harvey County 9-1-1 Communications Center is to provide prompt, effective and courteous service to the citizens and emergency services personnel of Harvey County and surrounding area. We achieve this goal by maintaining quality employees and State of the Art communications equipment for the Communications Center."
Harvey County Communications (9-1-1) began operations in January 1982 (merging Newton PD and Harvey County Sheriff Dispatch) in the basement of the Harvey County Courthouse, and moved to the current 2700 square foot center in 1997. Located at 120 East 7th in Newton, Kansas in the lower level of the Harvey County Law Enforcement Center, the Communications Center also includes the Emergency Management Office, Emergency Operations Center and Storm Spotter/RACES Office.
We dispatch for Burrton, Newton, Halstead, Hesston and Sedgwick Police, Fire and EMS; Walton Police and Fire, Whitewater Fire, Harvey County Sheriff, Emergency Management and Coroner and City and County Public Works. We also handle units from the Highway Patrol, Buhler and Moundridge Fire & EMS and Peabody Fire Departments, Community Corrections, Wildlife & Parks, FBI, KBI and US Marshals. We serve a population base of over 37,000 citizens in Harvey and parts of 5 surrounding counties.
Director of Communications Don Gruver and Assistant Director Molly Redinger oversee a staff of 4 shift supervisors, 9 full-time dispatchers, 6 part-time dispatchers and an administrative assistant. The dispatch staff is NAEMD and NCIC certified and utilizes a CAD System from Global Software.
Our center has 5 call-taker/radio positions (City, County, Fire/EMS, Supervisor and Backup). The radio consoles are Xybix consoles with Zetron radio consoles and Plant/CML phone sets. Our current communications systems are VHF with Newton PD and County Law Enforcement and Fire/EMS channels utilizing voting repeaters, which incorporate remote receiving sites to enhance portable radio coverage. Plans are underway to migrate our radio system to the State of Kansas digital P25 800 MHz network in late 2015. This major project, with a total price tag of over $5 million, will erect 3 trunking tower sites across the county as well as replace all Public Safety radios in the County and the Dispatch radio consoles. The new radio system will give us greater reliability and coverage within the county, as well as enabling seamless communications with our neighboring counties who have already made the leap to 800 MHz.
In 2004 we were awarded a grant from the Public Safety Foundation of America. This PFSA Grant provided 75% of the funding necessary to upgrade our 9-1-1 system to receive and locate wireless 9-1-1 calls. Prior to this upgrade, when someone called 9-1-1 from a cell phone, we were unable to get a phone number or location of the caller unless they were able to tell us. Many wireless callers are unable to give an accurate location. With the new technology, if the caller has a GPS-enabled cell phone, we will see their location on a map almost instantly. As we look down the road to the not-too-distant future, the technology is evolving towards a more map-based 911 system and being able to receive texts, pictures and video via 9-1-1. We at Harevy County are closely watching these shifts in technology and preparing to implement them into our systems.
As you can see, we use State of the Art equipment to assure the safety and well being of the citizens and emergency responders we serve. Because of its advanced operations, the Communications Center serves as a model for many agencies that are upgrading to meet the changes and challenges that will be a part of the future in emergency services. In fact, the Kansas Chapter of the Association of Public Safety Communications Officialas (APCO) has twice recognized the efforts of Harvey County staff members by naming them Kansas Telecommunicator of the Year: Liz Sauerwein in 1999 and Don Gruver in 2003.
Harvey County Communications is a busy center. We average nearly 100,000 telephone calls per year (41,000 are 9-1-1) which result in over 45,000 Police assignments and 5,000 Fire & EMS assignments per year. Our average time from first ring to page out for Fire/EMS is less than 60 seconds; most of the time a 2nd dispatcher is paging out responders while the first dispatcher is on the phone gathering information.
The responsibilities of 9-1-1 Dispatchers include:
- Promptly answering and processing calls on 10 emergency and 7 administrative lines.
- Monitoring and answering 13 different radio frequencies.
- Using Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) system to offer immediate basic life support instructions by telephone until units arrive.
- Coordinating Law Enforcement, EMS and Fire personnel on multiple agency responses.
- Gathering information from the scene prior to unit arrival to assure the safety of those responding, and monitor their safety throughout the call.
- Offering support, guidance and structure to emergency callers until units arrive and take physical control of the scene.
- Monitor and activate weather-warning sirens in Harvey County, Whitewater and Elbing, striving to give citizens an opportunity to seek shelter.
- Monitor, Dispatch, and collect fees for over 300 alarms connected directly into the Communications Center. In addition, process calls from outside alarm companies requesting Police, Fire or EMS dispatch.
- Enter wanted, missing or endangered persons and stolen property into the National Crime Information Computer and maintain and update those entries as needed.
- Process and disseminate Criminal History Record Checks for court and Law Enforcement personnel.
- Sending the right units, at the right time, in the right way; to protect the lives and property of those we serve.
Dispatchers are also kept busy with Public Relations work to inform the public about our local 9-1-1 system. Dispatcher Liz Sauerwein teaches "Survival Kids" to area 3rd graders. This curriculum based course, based on history and mapping skills, gives students insight into how the 9-1-1 emergency number is used and has evolved through the years. 9-1-1 staff also makes available presentations to the Newton Police Department Citizen's Academy, Leadership Newton, Job Fairs, Summer Safety courses, and tours.
Dispatchers Darren Ryan, Brody Flavin and Matt Regier along with Director Gruver and Assistant Director Redinger serve on the Emergency Response Team as Tactical Dispatchers, taking their communications, documentation and resource gathering skills into the field to assist field commanders. Their focus while on scene is on just that incident, not the other calls and activity within the communications center. Our Tactical Communications Truck carries a full complement of equipment to perform as a field command post as well as tie multiple radio channels across different frequency bands together into interoperable communications networks. In addition Gruver is a DHS-certified COML (Communications Unit Leaders) and Gruver, Ryan and Flavin are COMT's (Communications Technician).
The well being of the staff is a concern as well. Emergency Services work is very stressful at times, and built-up stress can take its toll on individuals. Therefore, Harvey County Communications Center is active in the Harvey County CISM Team. This is a peer-support group that provides education and post-crisis interventions for emergency services personnel. The proper mitigation and prevention of the effects of Critical Incident Stress are important for the health and preservation of experienced, trained staff.
We are now on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/hvco911
Our primary radio frequencies:
- 159.165 Ch 1 Newton PD
- 154.845 Ch 2 County Law
- 154.325 Ch 3 Fire/EMS
- 159.345 Ops 4 (Countywide)
- 154.755 Ops 5 (Newton area)
- 159.195 Ops 7 (Burrton area)
- 155.040 City Utility
- 151.025 County Utility