Public Safety Center #4

Today’s focus on the proposed Palo Alto County Public Safety Center will include information on the Communication Center and support areas. Please go to our website and click on the YELLOW tab titled, “Public Safety Facility,” for nearly 100 pages of information, including many pictures, of the current structure. I wanted to have tours of the existing facility but COVID made that event impossible.

60% voter approval is needed to allow this project to continue. If you feel this project is essential for your family’s safety, to reduce county liability from inmate and employee injuries, to avoid equipment failure and shutdown, and to provide essential law enforcement, dispatch and jail functions well into the future, please vote yes now.

The 911 Dispatch Control room is located in the old Sheriff’s residential section of the facility. There are two dispatch stations located in the room. The one workstation has the monitors for the cameras observing the inmate cells and Courthouse security system along with the law enforcement software system, 911 system, state and federal computer access system and administrative phones. This room is congested, to say the least, and additional space is not available for future needs. The space does not meet ADA Accessible requirements and has several entrances to the room making it difficult to secure. Access would be through the visitor visitation section of the building or the public access point of the Sheriff’s Office.

There is a transaction window for assisting in handling the public services. The 911 Dispatch center is staffed at all times. Centers require a small kitchenette and restroom in the center as dispatchers can’t go far from their station. Dispatchers assist the public and deputies in no contact orders, arrest warrants, stolen articles, missing persons, gun permit applications, probation to the Sheriff, Sex Offender Registry, driver license requests, among others, and have all the mailboxes for the staff.

The Control Room is remote from the jail which leads to concerns regarding the response time in the case of a suicide attempt or disturbance in the jail. The Control Room does not have secure doors protecting the Dispatchers from disturbances in the hallway, booking room or before inmates are locked in the jail. Intercom capabilities to the jail is minimal creating additional work for coordination with the staff to go to the jail to respond to requests or problems.

The windows and walls are not bulletproof so the staff is unprotected. Most of the wiring and additional electrical wiring had to be surface mounted. There is no break area with a sink or water. The dispatchers have to leave the area to use the kitchen or use the restroom to clean dishes or to fill the coffee machine. The direct access to the booking and jail support area is a security concern.

Per current codes these centers should be in a location that protects them from high wind or storm events. The structure and exterior windows do not offer any protection. In case of a fire or other severe event, the entire 911 system would be inoperable. This doesn’t meet operational requirements for 911 equipment and record storage.

The Dispatchers have to use the staff restroom in the administrative section of the building, which is the same restroom used by the public and for collecting urinalysis for probationers. The dispatchers have to leave their post to use this facility.

The 911 Communication Equipment room is located in the basement. This room is used for most of the 911 phone equipment and computer servers. The electrical main distribution panel, phone services and servers for the entire facility are located in this area. Additional air conditioning has been added to keep the room cool because of the heat output from the equipment.

The basement is the only space large enough for the amount of equipment in this room. Most of the wiring and equipment has to be surface mounted due to constant upgrades to the system. There is plumbing and water piping above the equipment and in the room. Caution has been taken to keep equipment off of the floor but the room is becoming completely filled with equipment. The main distribution panel and transfer switch for the emergency generator is located in this room in addition to all the equipment. If a leak were to occur it could shut down the 911 Dispatch as well as the electrical to the rest of the facility.

The basement is also used for freezer and canned food storage for the kitchen, along with storage for paper products and janitorial supplies. The boiler, water heater and washer and dryer share this same area. This area needs to be a secure fireproof area to protect the 911 system and separated from all other systems but it is not and cannot do to the original construction design.

The 911 Communication Radio Equipment Room is located in an upstairs bedroom of the old residence on the second floor. The room contains all the equipment for the dispatch radios. Due to the lack of space, this room is also being utilized for overflow record storage. A heat pump has been added to the room to provide air conditioning for the room because of the heat output of the equipment.

This is not the most secure portion of the building to protect the equipment from weather or a storm event. If this equipment were damaged there would be no way to dispatch deputies or coordinate responses with them. This room should be with the other equipment in a fire rated room. Storage should be separate from the radio equipment room due to the heat output of the equipment and the electrical wiring required for the equipment.

This bedroom has been modified to install all the equipment and wiring. Additional electrical outlets have been installed and all wiring had to be run from the tower to the equipment room and then to the control room. The wiring from the tower to the building should be supported by an ice bridge to avoid possible damage from freezing rain. Much of the wiring was required to be surface mounted due to the type of construction of the building. The plaster ceiling is loose and shifting and will need to be repaired soon to avoid radio equipment damage.

The 911 Communication Center control room, radio and 911 equipment rooms are substandard and are susceptible to failure from many avenues. These areas need to be addressed before a tragic event occurs.