New 911 dispatch center will help serve St. Johns County’s growing population

National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week is being celebrated this week.

It’s to highlight the men and women who are the first to respond to an emergency and send help.

Action News Jax’s Alicia Tarancon spent the day with 911 dispatchers in St. Johns County.

Generally, 911 dispatchers are the first to answer emergency calls for help.

“We bond together over these stressful events,” said Christie Taylor, the communications unit manager.

Depending on the call, they may alert deputies with the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office or fire rescue.

“You’ll see it on the news. Obviously, some of the worst calls. And you think to yourself, ‘I can’t imagine if that happened my family or that happened to me.’ Well, they’re hearing it from those people it’s happening to,” she said.

Taylor said the call volume is only increasing as St. Johns County continues to grow.

“I can think back when I first started 25 years ago working a night shift coming in at 11 o’clock at night and answering phone calls and maybe only answering a couple in the entire eight hours. Now, it’s not like that. It’s consistent call volume, especially during the day,” Taylor said.

And the county has increased staffing over the years. To meet the needs of the community, the dispatchers are moving into a brand-new communications center in the next month or two with new equipment and infrastructure.

“In an event that there is a major disaster, hurricane something like that, we’re going to be able to actually have more people come in and work and be able to meet the needs of the agencies that our citizens out there,” she said.

It’s been in the works for a couple of years.

With new equipment, new consoles, and infrastructure, Russ Martin, the director of operations for St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office, said his staff will have the resources they need to respond to more emergency and non-emergency calls.

He told me the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office and fire rescue will work even closer together to improve public safety throughout the county.

“We’ll have a clear line of sight with those folks, and we’ll make sure that our services are rendered not just from law enforcement perspective but also on the fire rescue side,” Martin said.

The St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office shared the current 911 dispatch center is much too small, and it’s also located in an evacuation zone, but the new space will be able to handle a Category 5 hurricane.

When it comes to the national average, 911 dispatchers are to answer about 90% of the calls within 15 seconds. But in St. Johns County, they’re answering 99% of the calls in 15 seconds.

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