City gets ‘efficient and effective’ enhanced 911

By Martha Frost: Quay County Sun

Dialing 911 in Quay County just got better — or it will get better in a few months, according to a joint agreement between the City of Tucumcari and Quay County. And it’s not only Quay that will benefit from the enhanced dispatch system. The enhanced system will branch out to cover Harding County, the Conchas Dam Fire Dispatch Center, the Village of Logan, the Village of San Jon, and the Village of House.

Tucumcari City Commissioners recently approved a joint powers agreement between the City of Tucumcari and Quay County establishing the Tucumcari/Quay County Regional Emergency Communications Center (the Dispatch Center) — also known as Enhanced 911.

City Manager Richard Primrose said the State of New Mexico is mandating one central unit rather than a separate city and county unit in order to save money and avoid duplication of equipment. A new map will enable responders to locate callers more effectively, the county manager said.

If someone calls 911 and cannot speak, the dispatch center can trace the call to a specific location, he said, and soon the new technology will make it possible to determine cell phone locations as well.

Tucumcari Police Chief Larry Ham said residents can expect the new system two be available in a few months and they are already asking for bids to accomplish the necessary remodeling at the new police department building where the centralized dispatch unit will be located.

Knowing that Tucumcari would be getting enhanced 911 was one of the reasons Ham was attracted to this location, he said, because he has seen it work elsewhere successfully.

“The Department of Public Safety has been encouraging consolidation of communications for years,” he said.
“If a call comes in from out in the county — from San Jon, Logan, or House — the dispatch unit can determine the proper agency to send,” Ham said. This could be the fire department, an ambulance, public safety, or law enforcement, according to Chief Ham.

“It improves efficiency and effectiveness,” Ham said. For instance, fewer dispatchers and less equipment will be needed and the dispatchers can determine which agency to send to which location, he said.

Enhanced 911 will soon also be available for wireless units, Ham said. “When someone calls from a cell phone, they may have gone off the road and not even know exactly where they are,” he said. “With enhanced 911, we will be able to determine their specific location.”

Another plus of the system would be the possibility of obtaining grants and additional funding, officials said. And the improvements may not stop with 911. Another joint powers agreement is in the works with the New Mexico Department of Public Safety, Ham said, to provide a back-up system if communications are interrupted at the centralized dispatch center.