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Location : City Government > Departments > Police Services > 911 Communications Center
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The Ponca City Communications Center


The Ponca City Communications Center, housed in the Ponca City Police Department, operates 24/7, 365 days of the year.  Staffed with highly trained dispatchers, the Comm Center effectively handles an average of 130-140 calls for assistance every day.  

 

The citizens of Ponca City can rightly be proud of their Communications Center, which was the first one in the entire state to be equipped with the “Enhanced 911” service.  “Enhanced” means that when a 911 emergency call comes in, the dispatcher can see –almost instantly—plotted on a map on the computer screen exactly where that call is coming from (latitude and longitude coordinates are shown for cell calls so that the caller can be located to within 100 meters on a map such as the one you see here!).  The equipment also identifies the name and address of the person calling, his/her phone number and which emergency responder has jurisdiction in the caller’s locale.  Since the Ponca City Comm Center receives and dispatches 911 calls from all over Kay County, it’s very important for the dispatcher to know quickly which police, fire or ambulance service has authority to respond to that call.

 

While the Enhanced 911 system can identify all land line calls, not all calls from cellular phones can be identified.   The Ponca City Comm Center has incoming phone lines from Phase One of the Enhanced 911 system that identify only the number of the incoming cellular call.   We also have Phase Two lines which will identify both the number and the location within 100 meters of the incoming cellular call.  The equipment’s ability to identify cell phone callers is dependent on the caller’s cellular phone company.  Many cellular service companies still have yet to upgrade their technology to provide this information for emergency services; and at this point, only Sprint and On-Star provide that safety feature for their customers.

 

It takes a special kind of person to be an emergency dispatcher, and the Ponca City Communications Center currently employs eleven dispatchers whose years of experience and expertise has proven their mettle.   A dispatcher must be a quick-thinker, cool and calm in the midst of crises, and must be able to multi-task big time.  When a citizen calls in with an emergency, the dispatcher must be able to remain in contact with that person, taking down vital information that will enable the correct help to be quickly sent to the scene, reassuring and calming the often distraught caller; at the same time, the dispatcher must be able to relay the facts of the situation to the officer or officers called to respond to the need; plus, he or she may also¸ concurrently, be in contact with a responding agency (a fire department, for example, or perhaps an ambulance or the hospital).  As if that wasn’t enough, from the moment that the call first comes in, the dispatcher is busy keying information into the computer. “Multi-tasking” somehow isn’t an inclusive enough word to describe the job of a Comm Center dispatcher!

 

A dispatcher is always ready to receive calls, either from the public or from officers or other responders.  Each dispatcher wears a headset which can be activated by either “push to talk” units worn around the waist or by foot pedal when they are sitting at the desk.  Microphones are another tool the dispatcher has at his or her disposal.   Even when momentarily away from the desk, the dispatcher is still in contact and able to receive calls and take information while he or she returns to the computer desk.

 

 The dispatcher has to keep an eye on multiple computer screens providing important information pertinent to the emergency need being presented.  It is a mind-boggling situation often involving life and death issues, and the dispatcher must be able to handle all this many times a day.  Ponca City can rightly be proud of the excellent record of the Comm Center to wisely and efficiently meet these critical needs for assistance.

 

New hires go through three or more months of intensive training, followed by a six month probationary period during which they are tested again and again in all kinds of situations.  Comm Center employees do more than answer emergency calls and dispatch police, fire, ambulance or other assistance as needed.   When an officer on patrol makes a traffic stop, he or she will call the Comm Center to ask for a look-up of information on the vehicle or vehicles stopped; the dispatcher use a teletype machine to access the databases of the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), providing the officer with vehicle tag, driver’s license and other information.  In this way, a routine traffic stop may unearth, for example, a stolen vehicle or someone for whom a warrant is outstanding – and another crime is on its way to being solved.  NCIC response is almost immediate.  Given the proper identifiers, they can also determine if a person has been entered as a runaway, missing person, endangered or more; and with that return comes the contact information for the law enforcement agency that originated the investigation. The Comm Center dispatcher will relay that information to the officer making the contact.

 

The Comm Center dispatchers monitor emergency alarm systems for hundreds of area businesses and residences; when a burglar alarm goes off at a place of business, an alarm also goes off in the Comm Center to alert them to follow up quickly on that need. 

 

Emergency alarm system

The Comm Center likewise monitors weather conditions and they have quick access to all the city and county utilities in case of emergency.  After office hours, emergency calls to Ponca City utilities for water or
electrical help are also answered at the Comm Center.

By video camera, the Comm Center staff monitors the Public Safety Center front lobby;  after hours, they are able to allow identified visitors access through the remotely-controlled door locks.  Video cameras keep track of areas of the exterior of the Police Department building, and those scenes are also monitored in the Comm Center. 

In addition, they dispatchers also monitor the Detention Center.    There are video cameras throughout the jail and Comm Center staff people are ready to act in case there is a need for assistance of some kind.  In order to monitor the jail, the dispatchers have had to be trained and certified by the State as “jailers.”    Their jailer training and certification also enables women in the Comm Center to help with searches of new, incoming female prisoners when there are no female Booking officers on duty in the prison.

 

The staff of the Ponca City Communications Center carry certifications from a multitude of issuing organizations, all of which attest to their extensive training and expertise.  Some of those include: the Association of Public Safety Communication Officers, Oklahoma Law Enforcement Training System Specialists (NCIC); they are certified in CPR. 

 

The Comm Center is equipped with Motorola Centracom Elite computerized radios which enable the dispatchers to be in near-constant contact with officers and responders.  The push of a button  on the screen shown here puts them in contact with specific fire departments, ambulance services and other emergency agencies.  When a hard wire or land line call comes in, the equipment identifies which responding agency is the closest to the caller’s location so the dispatcher knows immediately, for example, which fire station to call.

 

When a call comes in from John Q Citizen with an emergency, it is answered in one of two ways:  if it is a land call, the dispatcher says, “911 – what is your emergency?”   If it is a cell phone call, the caller may not know which town or city has received his 911 call and so cellular calls are answered, “Ponca City 911.”   The dispatcher’s first task when the call comes in is to determine what is the problem.  They try to get as much information as they can in order to give the caller the help he or she needs; the dispatcher will need to learn the information necessary to pass along to the responder.  Does the caller need police, fire or an ambulance?  While they are still on the phone with the caller, the dispatcher is simultaneously calling on the correct responder to stand by for an incoming call – within moments, the dispatcher is relaying the information necessary for that responder to know what happened and where to go to help.

 

The Comm Center dispatchers have a wealth of written information available to them – but it takes time and practice to know what information is needed in a given situation and to locate it quickly.  They have huge notebooks with contact information for hundreds of community leaders and organizations – the people and places to go for specific help – who’s on call when.  They also keep a list of citizens with specific needs so that in case of emergency, the responders can be alerted to special needs they may encounter at that address.   The volume of information they have available is overwhelming; the fact that they know where to go to find it when they need it is astounding!

 

The Ponca City Communications Center is unique in that it receives and dispatches emergency calls from all over Kay County – not just in the Ponca City area.  They dispatch to nine volunteer fire departments  (McCord, Osage, Kildare, Newkirk, Marland and more) and some smaller police departments, as well as to three other communications centers in Tonkawa, Blackwell and Kay County; they also dispatch ambulances to Noble County.   Some Osage County 911 calls come into this Comm Center as well, and they are dispatched to the correct local responders.   Some area Oklahoma Highway Patrol calls are also dispatched through the Ponca City Communications Center.

 

The citizens and government of Ponca City can rightly be very proud of their Communications Center.  It is well run, well equipped and manned by dedicated, trained, loyal and caring dispatchers who work day and night to assure that anyone in this community (and beyond) who is in need of help will find it just a telephone call away.

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