Lee County upgrades E-911 Service Center

·4 min read

Sep. 3—LEESBURG — The Lee County E-911 Center installed new computer equipment recently to enhance the center's ability to more efficiently and quickly respond to callers in need of assistance. This upgrade was completed using a portion of Lee County special-purpose local-option sales tax funding. The funding provided new monitor screens, hard drives, servers, adjustable work stations, and other equipment.

The Lee County 911 Center is managed by Director Nikkie Celinski. She is also the county's deputy emergency management director.

Celinski manages a 24/7 staff of 15 operators, three each on 12-hour shifts, including the training coordinator. Every employee, including the director, is a certified 911 operator, officially called telecommunicators. They are located in the E- 911/Emergency Operations building on North Starksville Avenue in Leesburg.

"Through the end of August this year, the 911 Center has received over 30,000 calls and will on average receive 70,000 calls per year." Celinski said. "Though all manner of emergency calls or texts are received over a year, the hardest calls we get are ones involving children."

There are no typical calls, and there are no typical days in a 911 center. An emergency to one person might not even faze someone else. Each call, no matter the nature, is handled by the telecommunicator with professionalism and respect. Calls may come in sporadically or in a flurry, when all three on-duty telecommunicators must handle multiple calls.

Some may think that telecommunicators just sit by the phone waiting for a call and directing a response. That, however, is just one of the many duties each performs. When a call comes in, a telecommunicator can immediately access six different data bases to help direct the appropriate response to the particular incident.

These systems include monitors for computer-aided dispatch and a phone locator system called Emergency Call Works. Another useful system is called TEXTY. This allows a person to text instead of call 911. Lee County is the first center in the state to use TEXTY.

The operators also have a high-definition map of Lee County and a radio dispatch system. One of the most important databases in the center is Georgia Crime Information Center (GCIC). The database allows the operator to access information on a person, including car tag, driver's license, criminal activity, criminal history and other personal information that may better prepare the on-scene responder for actions that may be needed. All 50 states plus Puerto Rico and some other countries are included in the database.

Most people think of police or firefighters as the typical first responders, but in many situations the first responder is the local 911 center. The person on the other end of the call may be having the worse day of their lives, so the telecommunicator needs to remain calm and collected when handling many of the calls they receive. The telecommunicator needs to be part dispatcher, counselor, medical evaluator, as well as other duties to help the caller thought a sometimes difficult situation. This job is not for everybody.

Training in all these areas is required and extensive. Before even starting the job, an applicant must complete the Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) for 911 Telecommunicators. There is a minimum of six months on-the-job training at the center and 40 hours of continuing education each year after. The center also participates in annual mass casualty drills, active shooter training, bomb threats and other training to continue to hone the critical parts of these important exercises.

One of the more interesting training programs is Emergency Medical Dispatch. This training is given to the telecommunicator to aide callers who may have a medical problem such as a heart attack, bee sting, drug overdose or other medical issues before the EMS unit arrives. It even includes how to help deliver a baby, which Celinski said she has had to do once in her career.

The Lee County E-911 Center has a mutual aid agreement with surrounding counties to assist or even take over 911 calls if damage or power outage affects that center. They also have quick call ability to transfer a call to the appropriate 911 county response if a call comes in that another authority needs to handle.

It is reassuring for local citizens to know that in Lee County when they call 911, they will be talking to a very competent, highly skilled telecommunicator on the other end of the line.