of communications collaboration
It began with a vision to unite geographically diverse Idaho through an interconnected communications system that would coordinate emergency responses and make travel safer for Idahoans.
decades later, the State Communications Center has evolved into a model
of multi-agency collaboration that is unmatched across the nation. The
center, located on the Idaho State Police campus in Meridian, celebrates
30 years of service this month.
Anderson’s persistence led to creation of the State Communications Center – “StateComm” for short – in October 1977, largely through a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
It was a modest start, explains, Dia Gainor who succeeded Anderson as bureau chief. The “center” was located in a small room at St. Alphonsus Hospital and provided air ambulance dispatch services for the hospital. It began assisting the Division of Aeronautics in searches for missing and downed aircraft and later moved to a facility near the airport.
When construction of the WYE Interchange displaced the Idaho State Police from its regional operations center in the early 1990s, StateComm agreed to share its intimate, windowless building. It also became part of an increased effort to collaborate and communicate statewide responses to hazardous materials incidents.
The staff of seven full-time and two part-time employees expanded to provide dispatch services for the transportation department in 1997.
With the center’s growing statewide role, accommodations became cramped and inefficient, so StateComm presented its case for a new state-of-the art facility to the Idaho Legislature in 1999.
There was virtually no debate about the need to build a new center, and Legislators quickly approved the $1 million request in 1999. Construction began in the spring of 2000 and the building was completed in time for occupancy between Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Since its inception, the center has grown to 17 employees – 14 full-time and three part-time. It includes four floor supervisors who also take shifts at the computer/phone consoles.
“StateComm is an excellent example of interagency collaboration and interoperability,” Gainor explains.
No other state coordinates dispatch services for EMS, hospitals and the transportation department like Idaho. Partners include the Bureau of Homeland Security, ISP, ITD, the departments of Environmental Quality, Fish and Game and Health and Welfare, local public health districts, state laboratories and the Division of Aeronautics.
It is the primary dispatch center for 16 EMS units located throughout the state, monitors EMS radio traffic and assists EMS units or hospitals in and adjacent to Idaho. The center relays patient or scene information, deploys additional resources and tracks EMS units when their primary dispatch is out of radio contact.
In FY07, StateComm logged 51,188 incidents, ranging from flight following, hazardous materials incidents, rail incidents, emergency dispatches and ITD incidents (highway closures and maintenance dispatches, traffic control, crashes…) The transportation department, which uses StateComm’s dispatch services, accounted for about two-thirds (33,809) of the logged incidents.
Continued growth of the StateComm-ITD relationship led to the assignment this summer of an employee solely to transportation department issues. Floor supervisor Kathy Bessey, who has been with StateComm for a decade, serves ITD on a full-time basis. She helps ensure that information is updated on the 511 Idaho Traveler Services system when ITD staff are not available – such as after regular work hours and on weekends and holidays.
The communication center’s round-the-clock services include:
A ceremony marking the State Communications Center’s first 30 years of operation is being planned and will be announced later. StateComm staff will give tours of the facility every Monday in October, from 10 a.m. to noon. To schedule a tour, contact Jennifer Brown at 846-7622.
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Photos: A communications specialist uses five monitors, radio and telephone equipment to provide dispatch services for ITD (top) at the State Communications Center in Meridian. State Comm specialists also can monitor highway cameras to see trouble spots (bottom right).