911 Systems, Tools and Equipment

The 911 Dispatch Center's role is to receive emergency telephone calls from the public, determine the nature of the situation, document the caller and event information, notify the applicable type of agency(s), provide the captured information to the responder agencies by voice/radio and data systems.  The collections and sharing of information done as accurately, completely and quickly as possible.  Numerous systems are used to achieve these goals.

Systems used to collect and share event information mush be resistant to failure, reliable and easy to use as they are depended upon daily when callers report emergencies and when natural disasters strike our communities.

911 Call Handling Equipment:  911 Dispatchers use specialized telephone equipment to answer 911 calls and text-to-911.  911 Calls normally present with the callers location, phone number, carrier and line type (landline, wireless, VOIP) but not always as the callers device may fail, the carrier's network may fail or other components may have technical difficulties.  KNOW YOUR LOCATION so you can confirm where you are and get help to you.  The 911 Call Handling Equipment plots the 911 call or text on a map to facilitate locating the caller/emergency.
**Okanogan 911 Dispatch recently improved the 911 Call Handling Equipment by becoming 1 of 2 hosts supporting 6 remote connected dispatch centers.  As a Host we have redundant servers on site and have access another host's redundant servers ensuring we've done all we can to ensure 911 is available and very durable.

Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) software is the primary tool used to document the callers information and reported emergency situation.  The CAD system is where the dispatcher captures what the caller reports, logs which responders are dispatched and arrived, logs updates from the caller and responding units.  Additional software aids the dispatcher's interrogation of the often excited caller to draw out important details about the criminal, medical or fire event being reported.  The dispatcher has access to response plans for the location or the event type to aid agencies.  CAD maps display the caller, event, responding unit locations (if units are quipped) and numerous map layers to aid units responding.  First responder agencies all have instant access to gathered call information using mobile computers and wire phone applications.
**Okanogan County has recently improved the durability of our networks with improved security practices and the addition of a backup power generator supporting county IT and the dispatch center ensuring the network remains up and available for responders to receive data and situational updates.

The radio console is a computer interface that allows the dispatcher to efficiently communicate with field responders (police, fire, EMS) throughout the county.  Often dispatchers are engaged in multiple conversations or events at a time so ease of access and efficiency are of vital importance.  The dispatcher wears a headset to hand phone calls and the radio traffic.  The integrated phone and radio allows the dispatcher to instantly transition from the phone call to radio transmission, back to the phone call. 
**Okanogan County has improved two communications sites and is currently improving a third site with concrete shelters that have proven to be durable to wildfire.  10 of 11 of our communications sites connected to utility power have backup power generators to ensure continuity of operations during a power outage.  The current Emergency Communications Improvement Project will improve and simplify the dispatcher and field unit experience allowing them to focus on the task of dispatching, firefighting or other emergency actions rather than manually manipulating the radio system.

First responders (police, fire, EMS) use mobile radios in police cars, fire trucks and ambulances and normally have 30-100 watts transmit power.  Portable radios worn by first responders on duty belts and harnesses normally have 3-5 watts transmit power.

Okanogan County has and offers agencies the use of two base radios in deploy-able cases to support events where a portable radio is not sufficient and sitting in a vehicle to use the mobile radio is not feasible.  These deploy-able radios can be used for planned and unplanned events.

Okanogan County has and offers agencies the use of one deploy-able repeater than can be deployed to support events such as the Omak Stampede, Okanogan County Fair or unplanned events (wildfire, flood, mass casualty, other).  The deploy-able repeater provides improved coverage over an area such as the Stampede Grounds or a crime scene to communicate within that area or provided better ability to communicate from the location back to dispatch.  In both cases the portable repeater adds talk capacity and reduces congestion on the normal dispatch channel.

March 2024 Okanogan County’s Mobile Command Vehicle/Trailer (MCV) became available with advanced communications features and Okanogan County offers the MCV for agency use.  The MCV can patch together two incompatible radios or radios not sharing a common frequency thereby allowing the units to successfully communicate.  The MCV can function as an emergency backup 911 dispatch or auxiliary dispatch center with full 911 call handling and radio dispatch functionality.  The MCV may be used to provide crime scene lighting, security, investigator/responder shelter, rest and recovery and any number of other benefits to the requesting agency.  The MCV is 95% grant funded.

June 2017 Okanogan County purchased a tracked snow vehicle (snowcat) to access remote communications sites.  Snowmobiles were previously used to access remote sites but the snowcat provides far greater capacity to access remote sites, carry tools, large cabinets, delicate equipment, technology and personnel.  The MCV has been valuable in accessing winter crime scenes and conducting welfare checks during snow events.  The MCV was 100% grant funded.