Armstrong County 911 center signals new chapter
RAYBURN – The rare sound of applause broke out over the county's emergency airwaves on Wednesday as dispatcher Dan Cooper announced the official beginning of a new chapter for Armstrong 911 and the county's Department of Public Safety.
The announcement, broadcast from the courthouse annex building, marked the end of emergency response from the Kittanning facility and the transition to the new Emergency Operations and 911 Center building near the Armsdale Center in Rayburn.
According to Randy Brozenick, county emergency management director, and Ron Baustert, county 911 coordinator, the move has been the result of five years of planning.
On Thursday morning dispatchers were seated at consoles in the new 911 center as furniture continued to be moved in place and additional computer monitors were set up.
In an adjacent room, the Emergency Operating Center had everything in place for meeting, prioritizing and coordinating the county's response to emergency situations such as those arising from major power outages or weather-related catastrophes.
One room in the 5,200 square-foot building houses the prime site, a bank of computerized radio equipment and a fiber optics system connected to 14 radio towers around the county.
“All this equipment is connected to tower sites and to a master site in Greensburg,” Baustert said.
If the master site fails, he said, the prime site in Rayburn has the ability to operate independently.
The former facility in Kittanning didn't have enough space to accommodate upgrades to the system, said Baustert.
He said that eventually, the county's new 911 phone system will connect with 13 counties and the city of Pittsburgh, which will save on maintenance costs.
“We're trying to keep up with technology,” said Brozenick. “And we're looking at more regionalization.”
Brozenick said sharing resources with other counties provides more than just a cost-sharing benefit.
If something were to happen to the Rayburn facility, Brozenick said, he would be able to log into a neighboring county's facility and still be able to direct emergency operations for Armstrong County from that location.
He also noted that the new building has a generator capable of allowing the facility to function completely in back-up power mode.
The new operation facility with its high-tech equipment is a far cry from where the county's Emergency Operating Center began in 1968.
Marie Mores of West Kittanning started as a dispatcher at the age of 26, working in a small basement room of the courthouse.
“It was an interesting experience to work there,” said Mores, who retired after 39 years on the job.
Back then there was just an old switchboard, said Mores, and dispatchers used paper and a pencil to write down directions and information before placing calls to police and emergency crews.
A big tape recorder taped all the dispatched calls.
Mores recalled when the Reynolds building, on Market Street, burned during the 1970s resulting in fatalities.
She also recalled dispatching ambulances to the former Armstrong County Hospital for the final transfer of patients to the new ACMH Hospital in East Franklin.
Mores made the transition to the annex building in 1992 and was present on the last day of operations when Cooper made his announcement over the radio scanner.
“As we went on, things changed,” said Mores. We grew with the system.”
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.