SARATOGA SPRINGS: Call center debuts new digs

Gone is the old paper wall map of Saratoga County.

In its place in the new Saratoga County 9-1-1 communications center are eight computer workstations, each with multiple terminals and the ability to bring up a computer-generated map of anywhere in the area.

Using a $1.8 million state grant, Saratoga County has overhauled the 9-1-1 center in the jail complex on County Farm Road in Ballston Spa. The old communications center was located in the center of the Saratoga County jail -- half of it upstairs, half downstairs. The old facility didn't even have a window and, because of the center's central location, communications officers were expected to unlock doors for visitors or other sheriff's deputies.

The new center looks more like something out of science fiction than anything else. Each of the eight workstations has four computer monitors: to field incoming calls, gather and generate information about the caller and the incident, and coordinate with other law enforcement agencies and emergency personnel.

All 9-1-1 calls made from landlines in most of Saratoga County started going to the Saratoga County Sheriff's Office on the morning of April 4. The center is expected to handle all cellphone calls in the near future.

The transition has been great, said Desk Sgt. Steve Gordon, a shift supervisor. "Between the training we received before the changeover and the support we're receiving now, it's been seamless."

Gordon said that if there has been an increase in call volume since the new system was put in place, he wouldn't have noticed, "because we're so much more efficient than before."

There are 26 communications officers working in three shifts, 24 hours a day.

"It's those 26 people," Saratoga County Sheriff James Bowen said. "They are the ones that make it happen."

Under the old system, 9-1-1 calls from landlines in most of the county alternated from the State Police in Wilton and the county. But only the county dispatched fire and ambulance calls, so the majority of 9-1-1 callers who got the State Police ended up getting transferred to the county anyway.

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