Public Safety Center


Written by Paul Fairchild in the November 2013 Issue

Rendering of the new Public Safety Center

It’s a question of space. The answer has been seven years in the making. Right now it’s just a hole in the ground at the intersection of First and Littler. Upon completion in early summer of 2015, it will be one of the most important spaces in Edmond. That space, the new Edmond Public Safety Center, will be filled primarily with the Edmond Police Department and the city’s mission-critical Emergency Operations Center.

On the surface, new space doesn’t seem like a lifesaver. But it is. New equipment and improvements for important services like the city’s 911 center need more space. More space means room for the people who operate the equipment for emergency services and provide cutting edge, responsive service.

Edmond’s population has more than doubled since 1980, when the existing police department was built. In that time, Edmond’s land area has quadrupled. The police department staff has grown but the room needed to operate in hasn’t changed.

“Our 911 center runs into space issues frequently because there are only five positions inside. If five people are working in that space, there’s no more room for anything else to happen there,” said Edmond’s Director of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management, Matt Stillwell. “An important example was the activation of the Emergency Operations Center this past spring during the May tornadoes. Already very busy and crowded, the 911 center filled up quickly because Edmond was actually hit by a tornado. The additional, critical staff reporting in to help had no workspace.”

Edmond Mayor Charles Lamb is frustrated with the existing facilities. The 911 center’s operators, he says, work in cramped conditions in a leaky basement. The current center has reached the limits of its existing space. There’s so little of it, in fact, that the actual emergency management control room isn’t even in the same building as its various department managers.

“The new facility consolidates personnel and management, and provides superior working conditions and equipment for critical employees who work in high-stress jobs,” said Mayor Lamb.

“Our jail was built for a city population of 35,000 in 1980. Edmond has more than doubled in population since then and our jail hasn’t been expanded accordingly. There are six usable cells allowing us to jail eight people at one time. We arrest many more than that on a typical weekend night. We’re forced to get the judge out of bed at 3am to release them on an Own Recognizant Bond. The other option is to transport prisoners to the county jail—taking an officer out of his district for at least two hours,” says Steve Thompson, Deputy Chief of Police.

Police BadgeA major improvement for the Edmond Police Department will be private rooms where victims of crimes can give reports without being in close proximity to prisoners. “Currently, there’s no accommodation for victims, placing citizens in uncomfortable conditions when they need to make reports and maintain some privacy.  This is a situation I have personally had to deal with and it is not what Edmond citizens expect or deserve,” said Mayor Lamb.

The new space also offers a few key technological advantages. What engineers call “redundancy” is one of them. In plain English that means more than one. The existing 911 center has only one line coming in for 911 calls. If something happens during a disaster and that one line goes down, local 911 calls are rerouted to a different location, potentially slowing the response times of emergency responders. The new center will feature multiple lines coming in. If one goes down, there are two others waiting to handle the load and therefore 911 calls are routed appropriately.

The new space has to be adequately powered as well. Electrical power comes in from two locations. If those both fail, there are two backup generators in place. If one of those fails, officials will be able to choose the mission critical functions that will be powered by a single generator. That’s backup after backup that the existing Emergency Operations Center doesn’t have.

In growing cities, space comes at a premium. So do critical services like 911 responses and a police department equipped to deal with everything that comes its way. The new Public Safety Center will cost almost $35 million when finished. Saving lives, however, is a return on investment that can’t be measured in dollars.

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