By Brandon Martin
The Martinsville-Henry County 911 Center went a step beyond the social distancing guidelines, hand sanitizing stations and other health protocols issued as a result of the pandemic.
To make sure employees are safe while keeping the community safe, the center began operating a “redundant site” which operates in tandem with the main 911 center, Deputy County Administrator Dale Wagoner said.
The site, which is operated out of the Piedmont Regional Criminal Justice Training Academy on DuPont Road, has been a work-in-progress for about 10 years, according to 911 Center Director J.R. Powell.
It began “as a rough back-up center,” but over the years, additional funding has allowed the back-up site to reach the same capacity as their main 911 center, Powell said.
He said it has generator power, duplicated computer systems, its own radio set-up, can run seamlessly as a standalone site, and “nobody would be able to tell the difference.”
Work on the center was completed in September 2019, according to Powell, who said that the final step at the new site was implementing new criminal justice software and the accompanying security measures needed to ensure confidentiality.
He added that the timing of completion was almost perfect, considering that the coronavirus pandemic has caused such a shift in operations for most.
“When the virus first started, the site was immediately activated for the first time,” Powell said. He said it has performed really well with only a few minor tweaks, such as updating the lighting and adding sound absorbers in the room.
As long as the pandemic continues, Wagoner said the site will likely remain operational.
According to Powell, his staff works split shifts between the two facilities. He said theoretically if there were six employees, then half would work at the secondary site and half would continue to work at the primary 911 center. There is no overlap between the employees, and those selected to work at one site will stay at that site for the foreseeable future.
Employees assigned to the site on DuPont Road haven’t been at the main 911 center since February, Powell said. “The real benefit is that if someone were to contract the virus then it won’t shut down our whole operation.”