The Emergency Communications Center (ECC) plays a vital role in the day-to-day operations of our office: the dispatchers who work here are truly our "first" First Responders. The Center is staffed twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and our operators are the initial contact for all incoming communications, including general information calls, telephone emergency 911 calls, and non-emergency requests for service. They are also responsible for handing the dispatching needs of the Sheriff's Office, multiple Fire and Rescue companies throughout the County, and providing assistance and coordination with the Virginia State Police. In a medical emergency, our Dispatchers are able to provide Emergency Medical Dispatching (EMD) services to callers until rescue arrives on scene.
They are a vital communications link with deputies in the field: they relay information, offer support, and serve as a lifeline to those serving the community. With a population of just under 40,000 people, Gloucester keeps the Center busy. In 2019, they handled tens of thousands of calls for service, while entering and maintaining the records and paperwork that includes protective orders, summonses, and arrest warrants.
Training / Certification
Our Dispatchers are trained and certified by Virginia's Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). For state certification, dispatchers must attend the Basic Telecommunicator Course offered at the Hampton Roads Criminal Justice Training Academy and complete (at a minimum) a three month on the job training course under the supervision / direction of one of the Certified Communications Training Operators (CCTO) on staff. The CCTOs are certified through DCJS and / or the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO).
During this time they are trained on the operation of our computer-aided dispatch (CAD) software and systems. They also become certified to operate a Virginia Criminal Index (VCIN) and National Crimes Index Center (NCIC) terminal. Lastly, they are trained in specialized software that allows them to pin-point the location of a wireless distress call.
Dispatchers of the ECC find themselves in other support roles as well. Our staff can be found teaching at the criminal justice academy, training and certifying agencies and individuals in the use of first aid and VCIN operations, or assisting the Office of Emergency Management during crisis situations, such as natural or man-made disasters.
In August of 2012, our new Emergency Communications Center was completed with modern, state-of-the-art equipment allowing dispatchers to serve in an upgraded and more comfortable environment. This six-position Public Safety Access Point (PSAP) also replaced the aging analog radio system that had been in place since the 1990s with a digital format that complements systems used by York and James City Counties: this is a great advantage when confronted with a regional emergency or if one of the three Centers ever go down. A new radio tower was also constructed, allowing for clear radio communications from the North Carolina border up to Tappahannock. We are preparing for a transition from using traditional, copper wires for receiving calls to an IP (internet protocol) based system referred to as Next Gen 9-1-1 that is starting to be implemented state-wide, with Gloucester currently slated for its upgrade late in 2020.
Center Supervisor Liz Simmons offers tours of the facility for various educational and civic organizations, such as the local elementary schools and the area scout troops. Children are instructed on when (and when not!) to call 911, and are offered insight into the daily work of a dispatcher. For more information on tours or about the Emergency Communications Center, please call or email Ms. Simmons.
The Gloucester County Sheriff’s Office is pleased to announce a new way to reach our emergency call center: the use of Text-to-911. Through a joint effort with TeleCommunication Systems, Inc., and various wireless carriers, this service allows those in need of emergency help to communicate with the dispatch center through texting, instead of placing a phone call.
The preferred and recommended way to report an emergency remains calling 911. However, there are unique situations where texting an emergency may make sense, such as being unable to talk or where it would be dangerous to do so, such as in an active shooter incident. Like any text message, simply enter 911 as the message recipient and type your name, your exact location, incident information, and send the text. Currently, videos and photos cannot be sent through this service. A GPS mapping program assists in pinpointing the location of the text.
Dispatchers will be able to respond back to the “caller,” just like in any text conversation. These text 911 events are treated with the same priority as standard 911 calls, and dispatchers are trained to respond just as if there was an emergency caller on the line. Currently, the Gloucester County text-to-911 system is confirmed to work with Verizon, AT&T, Cricket, and Comcast: deployment is in progress with Sprint but they are not yet confirmed to be operational. T-Mobile has also been made aware of our new program, but they too are not yet enabled.
For more information about the capabilities of the Text-to-911 system, please email Liz Simmons, Dispatch Center Supervisor.