CCE/9-1-1 Central Dispatch


Charlevoix-Cheboygan-Emmet Central Dispatch Authority/9-1-1 and the Charlevoix-Cheboygan-Emmet County Office of Emergency Management

New phone system brings major upgrade to CCE/9-1-1 Authority

Vaughn Noble, 9-1-1 Supervisor, demonstates the new phone system.

(October 2012) - When residents of Emmet, Charlevoix and Cheboygan counties pick up the phone to dial 9-1-1, the last thing on their minds is the network of technology required to quickly bring lifesaving personnel to the scene of their emergency.

Thanks to the forward-thinking administration of our regional 9-1-1 center, the most up-to-date technology is in place to meet the fast-paced changes of the digital world. Ten years ago, if a caller was lost in the woods, they’d be lucky to get reception or to be found if they didn’t know their GPS coordinates. Today, they can call 9-1-1, their location can usually be pinpointed and emergency responders are immediately sent.

Staying on top of technology upgrades is a full-time commitment for the local 911/Central Dispatch Authority, which recently went live with a major phone-system upgrade. The new system has eliminated typical telephones and replaced them with high-tech, touch-screen computers used by dispatchers who are connected via wireless headsets.

A major grant awarded from the Federal COPS program funded the $300,000 in upgrades for the Charlevoix-Cheboygan-Emmet County Central Dispatch Authority. They partnered with seven 9-1-1 centers in the Upper Peninsula, who collaborated together to purchase at the same time and receive better pricing on the phone system.

Dispatchers have been trained on the new equipment which delivers more data, better reliability of service and increased accuracy in pinpointing emergency calls, especially when it comes to those made on cell phones.

CCE Director Bob Bradley said the phone system replaces an outdated network that had been in place since 1996.

“This will strengthen emergency services in our entire region,” said Bradley. “Our old system was still reliable and still doing what it was supposed to be doing, but the networks that bring us 9-1-1 services are evolving and will continue to evolve. We need to stay ahead of the curve.”

For instance, in the near future cell phone providers are expected to begin providing the technology that will allow users to text 9-1-1 and send photos. Bradley noted how important that could be in situations where victims are hiding from a perpetrator and can’t speak into the phone, for example.

“This new equipment is opening a big door for us into the future,” Bradley said. “We are being very proactive with technology because we’ll be expected to react to the next generation of equipment as it comes at us.”

Greg Clark, CCE’s Assistant Director, said the 16 full-time and 4 part-time staff at the local dispatch center in Petoskey have worked diligently to learn the new system and its many new, enhanced features. The computer monitors that are now their phones are equipped with a multitude of information that is displayed when a caller rings into their wireless headsets.

The equipment upgrade also allowed CCE to add two call taker positions to its existing 5, for a total of 7, with the ability to add 2 more in the future. The added positions will assist dispatchers to connect with callers – important in major weather events and other potential emergent situations.

Additionally, in rural Northern Michigan a system like this benefits cell phone users who get disoriented in the woods – particularly as hunting season approaches, Clark noted. “In the past, you’d better know where you were in the woods or we couldn’t locate you,” he said. “Now, many cell phones can give the dispatcher your GPS coordinates right from your cell phone and we can get responders to you, or pretty close.”

Further, because of the partnership with the 9-1-1 centers in the UP, all are now able to assist each other in the event of a large-scale emergency or if one call center were inaccessible for any reason.
“We will be able assist and back up and support each other, which is so important,” Clark noted. “If we go down, they can cover calls for us and vice-versa.”

This latest upgrade isn’t the last. By March 2013, the local authority will go live with new radios for dispatchers to use when communicating with emergency responders such as ambulance and fire crews. The radio upgrade is part of a $788,000 grant awarded to the CCE Authority earlier this year from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“This is the backbone of the system,” Clark explained. “This is how we talk to the firefighter and EMS. It will give the dispatcher the ability to manage calls and integrate the information better. It will mean more reliability and accuracy, which should equate to faster response times.”

“We’re always trying to be prepared,” Bradley added. “That’s our focus.”

The digital dialpad is displayed on the monitors.

FEMA awards $788,600 grant to local tri-county fire departments, 9-1-1


(February 2012) - Northern Michigan fire departments and emergency responders will benefit from updated radio communications equipment – with better interoperability and reliability – with assistance from a large grant award from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 

FEMA announced on Feb. 24, that the 28 local fire departments and several EMS agencies, and CCE Central Dispatch (9-1-1), which together serve Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Emmet counties, have been awarded a grant in the amount of $788,600 from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant fund. 

Jim Tamlyn, CCE Board Chairman, said a "huge thumbs up to the staff of the CCE 9-1-1 center for all of the hard work they've done in applying and doing the paperowk on this grant over the last two years."

Bob Bradley, Director of CCE, said the funds will go a long way toward improving emergency responses in the region now and into the future. 

“Public safety agencies have all been feeling the same budget issues that the entire country has been facing. This grant will be a great benefit to those local agencies to make needed upgrades to their communications equipment,” Bradley said.

For the public safety agencies, this will mean replacing many of the mobile and hand-held radios they now have, along with pagers that alert them of calls, Bradley said. The grant also will provide radios that will communicate with different radio systems, such as the Michigan Public Safety Communications System (MPSCS).

The public benefits from the grant when an emergency happens as local fire and EMS agencies will have better communication equipment that has increased interoperability and reliability. For many departments, the change to newer equipment would have been a considerable financial burden.

Local Fire and EMS agencies cooperated to apply for the federal funds coordinated by CCE Central Dispatch, with the Resort-Bear Creek Fire Department serving as the fiduciary department for the grant funds. 

“This is the first time that all three counties have partnered together to apply for the AFG program,” said Bradley. “The grant will enhance interoperable communications between the 28 fire departments, dispatch and other response agencies such as police and EMS within the three counties.” 

Additionally, this equipment will enable fire departments to better communicate with regional, state and federal agencies when responding to large-scale emergencies and disasters. 

“Police, fire, EMS, and CCE Central Dispatch, through a mutual partnership, continue to move the three-county area of Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Emmet forward - with technology, voice and data sharing, mapping, resource sharing to provide best practice emergency response to the citizens here,” said Bradley. 

The current radio controller equipment at CCE headquarters in Petoskey has limited capabilities for interoperability, Bradley noted, and has reached the end of its lifecycle. Replacing the unit would have been cost-prohibitive. 

“The replacement will allow for better communications now, and will allow for more upgrade options in the future as needed,” Bradley said. “All of these changes build upon lessons learned in the past with large scale incidents such as September 11 , when departments in New York could not effectively communicate with one another.” 

The cooperative approach of the tri-county 9-1-1 system has become a model in both the state and the nation as communities look for ways to collaborate in an effort to save money and improve governmental services, such as public safety. 

In applying for the FEMA grant, Bradley said that CCE Assistant Director Greg Clark worked closely with all area fire departments and EMS agencies to assess their needs for communication equipment replacement. 

“In this case, with this being a FEMA grant, regional projects such as this are looked upon very favorably. FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security have taken many steps to encourage the ability of agencies to communicate in a more interoperable manner,” Bradley said. “The adoption of more radio channels by the FCC allow not only for local agencies to better communicate, but also allow for better communication in mutual aid incidents where outside agencies may come to our region, or resources from here respond to other emergencies. The ability to have common radio channels and the ability to communicate effectively is critical.”

About the FEMA grant
The Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is an important component of the larger, coordinated effort to strengthen the Nation’s overall level of preparedness and ability to respond to fire and related hazards. Since 2001, the AFG has provided approximately $5 billion in grants to first-responder organizations to obtain much-needed emergency response equipment, personal protective equipment, firefighting and emergency vehicles, and training. During fiscal year (FY) 2011, the AFG will award another $380 million to first-responder organizations that need support to improve their capability to respond to fires and emergencies of all types.

The purpose of the AFG is to award grants directly to fire departments and EMS organizations that are unaffiliated with a hospital to enhance their ability to protect the health and safety of the public, as well as that of first-responder personnel. The AFG will award approximately $380 million in competitive grants to fire departments and nonaffiliated EMS organizations during FY 2011. The application period opened on August 15, 2011, and closed on September 23, 2011, with 16,496 applications having been submitted.

New communications tower demonstrates inter-agency cooperation

Bob Bradley, CCE 9-1-1 Director, looks up at the new tower under construction north of Harbor Springs.

(April 2012) - Whether it’s a road commission truck plowing the wintry way in front of an ambulance racing to the hospital, or multiple regional agencies coordinating a life-saving rescue operation, inter-agency collaboration is paramount to a successful emergency response system. 

In Emmet, Charlevoix and Cheboygan counties, such cooperation is the norm. “People expect emergency services to be available exactly when they need them,” said Bob Bradley, director of CCE 9-1-1 Central Dispatch. “And they are. We all work hard to ensure that.” 

The most recent example of how collaboration benefits the region is a new communications tower being constructed north of Harbor Springs, off Stutsmanville Road. 

The land upon which the new tower is rising was owned by the Emmet County Road Commission, and it currently houses a 150-foot communications beacon used mainly by the ECRC to help its drivers communicate. After Bradley discussed CCE’s communications needs with Brian Gutowski, Emmet County Road Commission Manager, the ECRC transferred ownership of the parcel to CCE for construction of a new 350-foot tower, which is in progress. In exchange for the land, the road commission continues to get space on the tower and in the equipment shelter. 

Prior to the new arrangement, CCE had been renting space at a cost of $1,500 per month on a privately-owned tower at Boyne Highlands. 

“We were looking to get out of the rental, because our vision is that we own our own towers, which saves money. And the Road Commission needed to replace their tower, so we started talking,” Bradley said. “This is a perfect example of two units of government working hand-in-hand, and it’s a model in the state and the nation.” 

CCE utilizes 17 towers across its three counties; the CCE stands for Charlevoix, Cheboygan and Emmet counties. Cost to construct the new tower is about $1,000 per foot of height, Bradley noted. The project is funded by the surcharge levied on phone bills, which CCE uses specifically for technology and infrastructure upgrades. 

Ultimately, it’s the residents of the tri-county area who benefit from projects like the new tower, which should be operational in March. In addition, the site will also provide a point for CCE to link with Beaver Island via a microwave system, establishing a better radio network that will benefit public safety on the island and also some shoreline areas in Emmet County where radio coverage is limited due to the steep shoreline terrain, Bradley added. 

“This property is central to the county,” Bradley said. “This will help us continue to provide uninterrupted emergency services throughout the region.”