New 911 center to alleviate crowding
More room, better technology may help with response times

LAWRENCEVILLE - A state-of-the-art 911 center will give Gwinnett's dispatchers a hand in directing police and firefighters around the county.

The communications center, along with an emergency operations center and backup data center adjoining the county's police headquarters was approved by commissioners last month.

"More space will allow us room to grow, not only in terms of staffing but in technology," 911 communications manager Angela Conley said in an e-mail. "We will be able to add equipment that will greatly enhance our efficiency and productivity."

Since the current center was built, the room has become so crowded that a supervisory position was cut to make room for another calltaker, Conley said.

"We would like to have more 911 calltakers to increase our speed in answering calls but there is no place to put any extra equipment," she wrote of the current 10 calltaker positions and eight radio positions crowded into a small space.

Another positive about the 45,000-square-foot annex is room to create a 311 system for non-emergency calls, she said, although the staff for the system has not been appropriated.

"We constantly get complaints that the non-emergency line rings too long, (but) that's because people are handling the emergency/911 lines first," Conley said, adding that the plans include better equipment and even feeds from Department of Transportation cameras, so dispatchers can give emergency responders better information to get to a scene quicker.

"The space will be more ergonomic and user friendly since it is being built specifically with the needs of a 911 center in mind. We hope this allows us to add more people or to retain our employees longer," she said. "This is a very stressful job and turnover can be high. We have taken stress into account and are addressing this through the addition of windows, lighting, state of the art equipment and a quiet room."

Officials will host a groundbreaking for the $15.2 million project later this month.

"This project provides new, fully equipped and furnished emergency management facilities that will serve the county for the next 20 years or more," Assistant Police Chief Mike Reonas said.