Prince William County now has a dedicated, real-time 911 Call Center back-up facility that can take over operations in case the main call center goes down for any reason.
Eddie Reyes, the director of the county's Public Safety Communication Center, said that before the new call center opened it might have taken a couple of hours to get operations going if something happened near the primary call center that would cause it to shut down.
The call center has never had to shut down due to emergency, Reyes said. "Fortunately, we have never had to evacuate the main center in an emergency situation. We have only done so for pre-planned work, such as when we were doing electrical work, but the backup was set up ahead of time. From this experience, we know it took about 2 hours to set up and be operational by doing quarterly testing of the equipment.
Now that the back-up center is up and ready to run, it could be operational in 20 minutes, Reyes said during a recent ribbon cutting ceremony of the facility for staff. "We now have a full-time, dedicated facility. One that, in minutes, not hours, will be able to restore full 911 capability in Prince William County."
Police Chief Barry M. Barnard talked about the benefits of having a back-up facility. "This is a big day for all of us in the public safety community, for our community at large and for our public safety communication on both the police and the fire side," Barnard said. "It's not about one person, or even one team. It's multiple teams of people working together for the common good, to enhance public safety."
County Executive Chris Martino said the call center was critical to the safety of county residents, as well as first responders. "It's a pretty important operation. It's a 24/7, 365 operation dispatching the required response to the entire community… it's not lost on me how important it is to our own forces – that lifeline back to the center to make sure the right resources get deployed at the right time. It's really important to everything we do to try and make Prince William County a more safe, more secure community."
Prince William Fire and Rescue System Chief Tim Keen said the backup center was a long time coming. "This has been years in the making, and it just folds right into the county's strategic plan of keeping the public safe and secure. This also goes another step in ensuring that all of the first responders out on the street are safe."