New equipment, more space at consoles, reconfigured layout touted
When Aurora Deputy Mayor Guillermo Trujillo started as a police officer with the city in the early 1990s, the city’s emergency dispatchers worked in the basement of the former police station on North River Street.
“It always felt like a dungeon,” he said.
But the recently remodeled and upgraded dispatch center, unveiled at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday, is spacious and full of light from a wall of windows.
“What a night and day difference between the day I started and now,” he marveled.
The city spent a year and roughly $1.4 million on the center, which is on the third floor of the police department. It handles calls and dispatches for the city’s police and fire departments and the North Aurora Police Department.
Mayor Richard Irvin called dispatchers “headset heroes,” reminding everyone that his mother was an emergency dispatcher for the city.
“Our 911 operators truly are the first responders,” Fire Chief David McCabe said.
The 12 consoles in the room are equipped with seven to eight display screens each.
The layout was changed from a straight line of consoles to six on each side of an aisle.
Soundproof walls were installed. The new consoles are larger than the previous ones. Upgraded computer-assisted dispatch computers, with better graphics cards, should enable quicker response times and more efficient mapping of calls, according to city officials. The consoles at the police department and six consoles at a backup location are now all using the same equipment.
A video monitoring wall, with three large screens, was added. It integrates feeds from the city’s Critical Incident Information Center, city cameras, news media, an answering dashboard and ShotSpotter cameras.
One new feature Tara LaFan, day shift lead operator, appreciates is the status beacons attached to a pole at each console.
The beacon has lighted bands in it, with different colors that indicate if they are taking a call, communicating with a police officer or firefighter, or listening to an agency’s radio communications. That way a fellow dispatcher can see what is happening, including whether it is a good time to approach a co-worker for a non-emergency reason.
The new layout makes it easier to informally communicate with co-workers, she said.
“We love it (the renovated center). It is so much better,” LaFan said.