Dispatch, communications improvements nearly complete

Casey S. Elliott
Wednesday, February 10, 2021
Up and running

Beaverhead County Terminal Agency Coordinator Zakk Haggard takes calls for service on the newly-upgraded county 911 dispatch equipment and software. The new equipment and software were paid for through a pair of grants, with roughly 90 percent of the work complete. Casey S. Elliott photo

New software and equipment upgrades for Beaverhead County’s 911 dispatch center are almost done, bringing the facility into the 21st century.

Beaverhead County Sheriff Paul Craft said the upgrade is about 90 percent complete, with some final tweaks still needing to be made. The new systems are designed to fit the county’s needs, and staff have worked with the software provider to add or remove items to suit.

The upgrades were funded through a pair of grants totaling nearly $230,000 from the Department of Homeland Security and 911. The grants funded new equipment purchases for the two dispatch stations at the county dispatch and a backup at the Search and Rescue building, and the software upgrade to the county’s CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) system.

The old systems and equipment dated back to the 1990s.

The changes are a big time saver, Terminal Agency Coordinator (TAC) Zakk Haggard said. When calls come into dispatch, the information that comes across is auto-populated into the system, including location of the call, and can be shared across programs for law enforcement, fire and EMS dispatching purposes.

The upgrades are compatible with “Next Gen 911,” a nationwide rollout for voice, video and text messaging to tie into emergency response. It also set up data backups in case something were to take down the dispatch center.

And though not part of the grants, the sheriff’s office is nearly complete getting the new Wise River radio repeater up and running. Law enforcement and emergency services are now able to hear radio traffic in the area, something that has been spotty-to-non-existent over the past couple of years.

The next step will be repurposing two laptop computers for the sheriff’s office to work remotely to resident deputies out in the county. Craft said that will save those deputies time and will reduce costs for the department, as those deputies will not have to make special trips to Dillon to fill out paperwork.