James City County’s Emergency Operations Center continues to upgrade and become more 21st century.
The county’s Emergency Operations Center, on Route 60 just north of Croaker Road, will receive a$44,544 grant from the state during Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting. The money comes from national Homeland Security funds.
The grant will be used to recover the cost of a fiber optics upgrade the county finished a few months ago. The upgrade will help the center receive statewide emergency communications faster, according to county Fire Chief Tal Luton.
The county’s Emergency Operations Center acts as a regional hub for all internet communications and operations, mostly because of its location. “We’re 60 miles inland, so it’s a good spot,” said Luton.
The center is like a war room for emergencies, which can range from a hazardous materials spill to a hurricane. Luton said seats in the center can be filled by various county officials like himself or County Administrator Sandy Wanner within an hour of an urgent situation.
Among the new upgrades is an emergency alert system using text messages and e-mails. The alert system will send information, such as an evacuation notice, to an e-mail address or cell phone whenever necessary. The alert system is expected to be up and running in the next few weeks.
“We want to make sure the system is 100 percent before we let people sign up,” said Luton.
County residents will have to subscribe to the service online by entering an e-mail address or cell phone number. Luton said residents should remember to update their information any time it changes.
Global positioning systems are also in the works to replace the often inaccurate reverse 911 system. Right now if someone uses a cell phone to call in an emergency, but doesn’t give a location, police and fire officials have to rely on the closest cell tower to find the person, which slows response time.
“If someone’s on the James River then the call could come from a cell tower in Surry. Then the call gets bounced back to us,” said Luton.
With a GPS upgrade, known as Next Generation, the calls can be traced to the person’s actual location.
Click here for more information on the county’s emergency operations and readiness.