HUNTSVILLE, Ala – After breaking ground roughly two years ago, the CEO of Huntsville-Madison County 9-1-1 said the 16 million dollar facility should be ready by March.
The 30,000 sq ft building will expand the dispatcher/call-taker amount from 36 people to 52 people to better match rapid growth across the Tennessee Valley.
It’s that same growth that has actually delayed the project.
“We are waiting on some key materials. We are waiting on subcontractors. Everything has to be done in order,” said Ernie Blair, CEO of Huntsville-Madison County 9-1-1.
The current facility is already the largest communications center in the state of Alabama. That’s because eight agencies share the space.
The new facility will have space to house more agencies that are interested in joining the system. Blair said it is more cost-effective to share a roof and allows for easier crisis communication between several agencies.
“Everybody that works here, be it the technical people, be it the call takers, the dispatchers, the supervisors..these people are on a mission. Everybody in this room has saved a life at one point at least once,” said Blair as he gave a tour of the soon to be old-facility.
The new facility should be ready by March, but it could take up to three months to fully complete the move. Not everyone will move at the same time, to ensure all technical issues are resolved quickly.
“9-1-1 is kind of like three-legged stool. The first leg is the technology. You’ve gotta have the technology. The second thing is the people. You’ve got to train your people and they have to become experts on what they are doing,” explained Blair.
The 3rd ‘leg’ is admittedly a tough one for such a busy unit. Blair said they need to do a better job at community relations. To achieve this, Huntsville-Madison County 9-1-1 is partnering with Flourish, a local communications company. The partnership itself is rare and will allow 9-1-1 to better educate the community in how to interact with 9-1-1 dispatchers.
“When you call 9-1-1, things are not going well in your life, typically. You’re not going to be at your best. What we want to do is before that emergency happens, teach you the things we (9-1-1) need to know,” said Blair.
Flourish has already re-branded the organization’s website to include useful information for the public.
WHNT will let you know when the ribbon is cut on the new facility.