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What makes the new Office of Emergency Communications (ECC) in the Department of Public Safety Communications for Fairfax County, VA, unique, is the fact that there are four different agencies operating simultaneously under one roof, according to Steve Souder, Director. These agencies are: Department of Public Safety Communications; Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT); Office of Emergency Management’s Emergency Operations Center (OEM EOC); and the Virginia State Police Dispatch Center. Seven years ago, Fairfax County recognized a need for a new 9-1-1 Center. Their original facility was in an old elementary school for 18 years. Obviously, it was not built to be a Mobile 1 Center. Souder also said Fairfax County identified a need for an enlarged and updated emergency operations center (EOC).

Souder said Fairfax County took a step back and looked at their next-generation mission. What made the most sense was having all four agencies together. Traffic affects public safety, which is managed by the OEC or OEM. This way, “it’s like a silo; the sum total of the four parts is greater than four separate parts,” Souder said.

Employees of all the agencies had tremendous enthusiasm for the future integration. It created a certain “synergy” by bringing the four agencies together without walls or partitions, so there is total awareness of what others are doing. The large layout/space “is conducive to collaboration and cooperation, 24/7,” Souder stated. All the involved parties came together in terms of design, as well as funding sources. They received more funding combined than they ever would have if done separately.


The Department of Public Safety Communications takes up 80% of the building, with its primary role being 9-1-1, Fire, Police, EMS and Dispatch. Both the Department of Transportation’s Traffic Management Center and the Virginia State Police Dispatch Center controls 15 counties in Virginia. All the technology at the new center is remoted from the floor into the IT “gallery” so it’s serviceable, which means technicians are not crawling under people’s feet like in the old days. Fairfax County completely upgraded it technology infrastructure to include the latest in 9-1-1 telephony.

Souder said they considered every detail, from indirect lighting to facing north and south to avoid the sun’s glare and heat. Consoles are ergonomically correct, even including A/C and heat. Fairfax County’s CAD has 27 ancillary systems that support it, such as (but not limited to): Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL); Automatic Vehicle Routing Recommendation (AVRR); Records Management System (RMS); EMS Field Reporting; Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs); Fire Station Alerting System; Automatic Shift Staffing Program. The EMS Field Reporting system uses an electronic pad in the field and the info is downloaded to hospitals.


With this “next-generation” 9-1-1 center, every expectation has been met and even exceeded, according to Souder. One aspect they didn’t overlook is the commercial-grade kitchen, since employees often work 12-hour shifts so they are serving two big meals there per day. The facility also includes a state-of-the-art fitness center, meeting/conference rooms, etc. Personnel can also enjoy a large courtyard with grills for barbequing and a dedicated smoking area. Souder said a typical shift includes 40 employees on 9-1-1 for Dispatch for Operations on the floor (not including support); four State Police dispatchers; and six traffic management technicians.

All in all, in Souder’s 9-1-1 Department, there are 36 call-taking positions; 14 police dispatchers; 12 Fire/EMS positions; and four supervisors. The State Police side has six dispatch and 12 VDOT positions. The video wall on the main floor is made up of a series of individual screens. It is primarily for Traffic Management, but it is available to everyone. It can accept downloads from a mobile command post. The CAD screen measures approximately 40 feet long by 12 feet high. Souder said the facility was “built for growth” with an ample number of workstations for the future. In addition, the building was built to U.S. Embassy structural standards so it is “very secure and well put-together.”

Fairfax County, VA Technology Vendors

9-1-1 Telephone System: PlantCML

CAD & RMS: Intergraph

AVL & AVVR: Trimble

EMS Field Reporting: Zoll 

 Fire Station Alerting System: Westnet

Fire/EMS Software: Deccan International

Automatic Shift Staffing Program: Telestaff 

Consoles: Bramic

MDTs: Panasonic

Published in Public Safety IT, Nov/Dec 2009

Rating : 7.0

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Posted on : Dec 11 at 2:53 PM By G. Thomas Tom Steele

Mr. Souder has long been a leader in communications. This effort is far reaching and will serve as a foundation upon the future of public safety and homeland security for information sharing and resource management. This is another benchmark established for others to learn and grow from. This system Im sure was built upon his experience from working at the DC Metroploitan PD, Arlington, VA PD and the Montgomery MD, PD. Nothing beats experience and user guidance, and this proves it.

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