Knox County 9-1-1 serves a population of 60,921 with a total land area of approximately 530 square miles. Our consolidated 9-1-1 dispatch facility is located in the City of Mount Vernon at the heart of Knox County. In addition to the residents of Mount Vernon, Knox County 9-1-1 serves all or part of 7 villages and 22 townships. Knox County 9-1-1 is governed by the Knox County Board of Commissioners.
Knox County 9-1-1 was formed in 1994 for the purpose of establishing a single common number to request emergency assistance for all residents of, and visitors to, Knox County. With the passage of a ¼% sales tax to fund its operations, Knox County 9-1-1 assumed both the responsibility for and financial burden of handling all 9-1-1 calls for assistance. In addition, this organization assumed the responsibility for all law enforcement, fire and EMS dispatch and communications, including the oversight of the Law Enforcement Automated Data System (LEADS) for our law enforcement partners.
At that time the dispatch employees of the Knox County Sheriff’s Department and Mount Vernon Police Department were absorbed into Knox County 9-1-1. They continued their operations from those locations; the former at 11540 Upper Gilchrist Road, Mount Vernon, Ohio and the latter at 5 North Gay Street, Mount Vernon, Ohio. That arrangement, in place for 20 years, was replaced by an independent, consolidated 9-1-1 dispatch center on July 8, 2014.
Borne, in 1994, as an enhanced 9-1-1 (E9-1-1) service providing automatic number identification (ANI) and automatic location information (ALI) Knox County 9-1-1 has taken great strides to keep up with the times. Knox County 9-1-1 completed the upgrade to phase II wireless for cellular phone calls in 2002 and completed a NextGen capable update to its 9-1-1 call taking systems in 2011. In addition, Knox County 9-1-1 began Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) in 2005. A rigorous training program now requires that all new full-time employees complete CPR certification, EMD certification, APCO Public Safety Telecommunicator I certification and NIMS 100, 200, 700 and 800 for operational employees.
Our current hardware/software systems include Emergitech computer-aided dispatch (CAD), Cassidian Sentinel Patriot 9-1-1 and administrative call-taking system, DDTi AccuGlobe mapping integrated into our ANI/ALI feed for real time 9-1-1 call locating, Telex radio consoles and National Academies of Emergency Dispatch/Priority Dispatch ProQA EMD software. Email, scheduling and document sharing is provided to all employees through agency purchased Google accounts. Recording of 9-1-1/phone/radio transmissions are provided with Eventide logging systems at all sites. And the county subscribes to the WENS public text alerting system for all residents, of which the 9-1-1 dispatchers are trained operators.
Knox County 9-1-1 also funds and operates a complex VHF public safety radio system for our frontline partners. This system includes a repeated county fire dispatch channel with sites in Mount Vernon, Danville, Fredericktown, Centerburg and Bladensburg. In addition, it includes a repeated sheriff’s dispatch channel with sites in Mount Vernon and Centerburg. The county also maintains the Mount Vernon Police dispatch channel and Mount Vernon Fire dispatch channel both located in Mount Vernon. In addition, the county hosts five separate tactical channels arranged throughout the county. These include two sites in Mount Vernon, a third on the MARCS tower at the Knox-Morrow border just north of Centerburg, the fourth on the MARCS tower in Brinkhaven with a fifth tactical site in Fredericktown. This is in addition to a number of simplex operations channels and the common mutual aid frequencies across the state, including Stateband and LEERN for law enforcement and State Mutual Aid for fire. Finally, Knox County 9-1-1 has the capability to access MARCS, including the capability to patch into all necessary MARCS talk groups as well as the ability to patch into the VHF radio systems in use by our surrounding counties.
The consolidation of Knox County’s dispatch centers was predicated on the efficiency that has become a necessity over recent years. The new center possesses state of the art dispatch consoles and wireless telephone/9-1-1/radio headsets to improve both the comfort and efficiency of our employees. In addition, it serves as the hub of a public safety fiber optic network connecting it with the Knox County Sheriff’s Department and Mount Vernon Police Department. This fiber optic network has the capability of providing necessary connections to our Sheriff, Police Department, County Prosecutor and City Law Director while also feeding information to 10 fire departments operating within the borders of Knox County.
Knox County’s consolidated dispatch center was planned with both redundancy and expansion in mind. It is equipped with a 100kW generator and 30kVa uninterruptable power supply (UPS). Backup heating and cooling for the dispatch floor and constant cooling for the data room ensuring that both the employees and their equipment can remain operational during almost any emergency. The 1000 square foot dispatch floor, large data room and oversized backup power systems ensure a minimum future expansion to 10 positions, and likely more.
Knox County 9-1-1 also maintains a backup communications center at the Knox County Sheriff’s Office ensuring that we can continue operations even with a catastrophic loss to our primary location. Redundancy of our public safety radio communications systems is achieved with tower sites at Knox County 9-1-1 as well as the Knox County Sheriff’s Department ensuring that we remain a constant and reliable link for our public safety partners in all situations.
Our geo-diverse 9-1-1 call taking system ensures that we can continue to operate in any situation. 9-1-1 trunks and administrative phone lines are divided between the primary and backup centers. In the event that we lose the phone lines into one location we can access the lines from the other location without changing centers. Similarly, with two independent, but connected, 9-1-1 servers we are confident that a hardware failure or catastrophic loss of one site/server will not significantly interrupt our operations. In addition, this system makes Knox County 9-1-1 Next-Generation capable positioning us to receive 9-1-1 text messaging, video, picture, OnStar crash data and the like when those services become available in our region.
Our computer-aided dispatch (CAD) network will mirror the redundancy of our 9-1-1 call taking systems, and then some. Two servers will back each other up at the primary site in “real time”, similarly, the CAD databases will also backup to a third server located at our backup center ensuring both that a loss of one server at our primary center will not interrupt operations, nor will a total loss of that primary center compromise our ability to operate from our backup location.