City, county officials announce final transition of joint 9-1-1
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and City of Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto announced that the final transition for the full merger of the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County’s 9-1-1 will begin this week, with full consolidation of zones to be complete by mid-September.
The announcement was part of a press conference which highlighted the regionalization and shared services the county has embraced as part of its emergency management services, and that highlighted the ongoing city-county cooperation.
“Pittsburgh’s population is just a little over 300,000, but that number ebbs and flows each day. Whether it’s employees driving in from the suburbs or other counties for work, visitors attending a conference or convention, or fans coming to see a sporting event, concert or cultural event, there is an influx of people to our neighborhoods,” said Mayor William Peduto. “Our city and this region continue to receive accolades and we want to see it grow. Having a strong emergency services system to support our residents and visitors is an important part of that growth.”
Having emergency responders from the City of Pittsburgh and throughout Allegheny County work efficiently and effectively was the focus when the city entered into an agreement with the county in 2004 to co-locate services. Now, with the leadership and continued focus on city-county cooperation by the county executive and mayor, the final steps for the full merger will begin with training this week.
It is expected all zones will be consolidated by mid-September, allowing time for call takers to become familiar with all 130 municipal codes, ring down agencies, and services provided.
“Providing a fully merged center has been a long process, and was at one time a controversial one, but it has shown itself to be the right decision for our residents and visitors,” said County Executive Fitzgerald. “In the past two decades, we have combined 46 centers into one. We have done a great job of saving all of these municipalities money and have made the system more effective and efficient for those who have need of the 9-1-1 Center.”
The Allegheny County 9-1-1 Center handles 1.3 million calls a year, serves 130 municipalities, 197 fire departments, 111 police departments and 51 EMS agencies. The county also continues to accept municipalities which have closed their dispatch centers, incorporating their responsibilities into the center. Thirteen municipalities continue to operate their own local dispatch to approximately 50 law enforcement, fire and EMS agencies.
“I am extremely proud of the job that our employees do each and every day. On any given shift, we have the capability to staff up to 40 telecommunications officers, 20 call-takers and four shift commanders that, professionally and efficiently, handle the extreme volume of calls that come into the 9-1-1 Center,” said Chief Alvin Henderson, Director of Allegheny County Emergency Services. “The center has gone through significant change since it was first created, and ensuring that we have the correct staffing and support is absolutely imperative. With the support of the administration, we added 12 new positions this past spring and continue to expand what we can offer our residents through technology and other cooperative and collaborative efforts.”
Allegheny County participates in West Core – a regional procurement effort between 13 counties that allows it to share costs for switches and technology for emergency services. It also participates in ESInet, an emergency services information network, which has allowed the county to move toward Next Generation 9-1-1.
This past May, Allegheny County launched its Text to 9-1-1 service. To date, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, AT & T and Sprint offer this service to their customers and the center has received 153 such messages.
Mr. Fitzgerald and Mayor Peduto also addressed the need for the State Legislature to enact a funding formula that provides full funding for the operation of the 9-1-1 Center.
“Even with our ongoing efforts to identify efficiencies, and the significant steps that the department has taken to centralize systems and regionalize purchasing and other costs, the state-established funding mechanism has not been able to provide sufficient support for the system,” said Mr. Fitzgerald.
“Relying upon a land line surcharge for the bulk of our funding is shortsighted. County taxpayers deserve a funding formula that takes our population and call volume into consideration, and ensures that devices and new technologies that use the services are also part of the funding formula.”
Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed legislation to delay sunset provisions, by one year, on the existing funding formula. Currently, counties may collect a surcharge on land lines, which are decreasing in usage, while a surcharge on cellular lines is collected by the state.
Counties may apply for the state-collected funding, but it can only be used for certain purposes outlined within the state law.