A pandemic and a New Dispatch Center, What could go Wrong!
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A pandemic and a New Dispatch Center, What could go Wrong!

By Michael K. Clayton, MS, ENP, Public Safety Communications Director, Grant County Central Dispatch

Michael K. Clayton, MS, ENP, Public Safety Communications Director, Grant County Central Dispatch

Ten months ago, if you had told me that I would have landed my first 911 Director gig and brought a new combined 911 center over the finish line during a pandemic, amid other challenges, I would have probably laughed at you. But on June 8, 2020, at six in the morning, Grant County Central Dispatch did the impossible and went to work in the remodeled basement of a 98-year old bank building. There were doubts though, as the idea of central dispatch had been tossed around for a number of years prior to this, and had been tabled at least three separate times, until late 2018.

Here we are, five months into this adventure, and for the most part, nothing has burned down, and Grant County Central Dispatch has thrived, despite the odds against it. Have there been hurdles? Absolutely! Staffing, lack of in-person training, and a number of construction delays almost torpedoed Go-Live day for what I would find out was the eighth time over the course of planning. Despite all that could go wrong though, we were able to go live and get the operation going without major incident or reverting back to the old 911 centers. In fact, for turning on a bunch of new or rehoused technology, our go-live day was one of the smoothest that one of our vendors had ever been a part of.

"Here we are, five months into this adventure, and for the most part, nothing has burned down!"

In the weeks that have come since joining the merging of operations, it has been nothing short of an exercise in “if it can happen, it will.” We have had radio systems just fail, new tech that had to be adjusted, staff adjustments to a new style of dispatching, and inevitably, a case of COVID-19 that sent half of the full-time staff home to quarantine, leaving the remaining half to carry on. But what’s great about the crew I have is that even when faced with the news that the next two weeks they will be working modified hours and what they had planned for days off have been canceled, still found the silver lining in the situation. Before I even knew how bad the situation was going to get, my crew had planned a pajama day, one of the dry erase boards had a ‘things we are thankful for’ list started, and the break table now rivals some buffets in Las Vegas.

Now with our team back up to full strength, one thing that has remained consistent is my staff’s ability to persevere during some of the most challenging of times. While I know of many places that have merged with other operations, other centers that have remodeled or expanded their operation, I’d like to think that the members of Grant County Central Dispatch have persevered through the adversity. My staff have done that and so much more in a year where the challenge of a pandemic, a new home, a new operation, and new faces sitting beside them could make any normal person run for the hills. There have been ups and downs, and learning a new way of how to handle the work we do day in and day out. I couldn’t be more proud of my group of professionals and hope to finish our inaugural year even stronger.

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