Located in Pierce County, Washington’s second most populated county, South Sound 911 is the result of collaborative problem-solving efforts between 911 centers and the community.
In 2010, Pierce County had nine public safety answering points (PSAPs) and two non-PSAP dispatch centers to manage the public safety needs of its growing population. There were some local consolidation efforts over the years due to the financial concerns of maintaining multiple locations. The county also faced sporadic funding, unpredictable routing of 911 calls, and lack of data sharing between police and fire agencies. While previous discussions about consolidation had taken place, public safety professionals continued to tackle many challenges and it was time to take action.
The Pressure for Interoperability
Nationally, the events of 9/11 created concerns about interoperability and the Federal Communications Commission’s narrow banding mandates had a big impact on VHF radio licenses — both of which effected the county. Prior to consolidating, two tragic events tested and taxed interoperability of the county’s dispatch systems as well as its ability to get timely data to other agencies. Rural radio transmissions also proved to be difficult in calling for help, which resulted in the loss of a police officers’ life.
A Message to the Public
During this time, local agencies in the county went to the public with a message to let them know that they were somewhat at risk because police departments could not communicate with each other and fire departments could not communicate with police departments either. Pierce County agencies were successful in convincing the public that interoperability was important and this led to the creation of the consolidated agency, South Sound 911.
Immeasurable Value to the Community
By using a consolidated computer-aided dispatch system, South Sound 911 is saving taxpayers time and money—instead of having different systems, numerous vendors, and multiple maintenance contracts. Police officers in different jurisdictions can see what neighboring officers are doing, help one another, and share data. Police and fire agencies can also seamlessly work together. All public safety agencies are working together for more accurate and faster responses to the citizens they serve.
Watch Andrew Neiditz, executive director, South Sound 911, and Tim Hannah, assistant director of Communication Systems, South Sound 911, share their story of bringing PSAP interoperability to Pierce County.