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Tuesday, May 30, 2023
HomeNewsArchivesGovernor Tours New St. Croix 911 Center

Governor Tours New St. Croix 911 Center

Gov. John deJongh Jr. and  Ninafe Awong inspect the system with 911 operator Megan Buchanan.Gov. John deJongh Jr. Thursday toured the newly activated 911 Emergency Communications Center on St. Croix and was impressed with what he saw at the new state of the art center.
“This is nice – this is extremely impressive,” said deJongh after he had a simulated demonstration of a response to an emergency call. “Now the structure is in place to respond in a proactive manner and not a reactive manner.”
The governor was led on a tour of the facility by Mark A. Walters, State Director of the V. I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency.
Ninafe Awong, manager of the center, told deJongh the purpose of the five different screens Jamila Saldana manned as she took a mock gunshot emergency call. The operator, the caller and the first responder can be linked by the new system at all times. Only law enforcement and other first responders can monitor the secure radio frequency.
The governor asked how it was possible during the call for the operator to listen, type, go through protocol, and respond all at the same time.
Walters said the operators were trained and tested with software on multi tasking.
“The operators completed extensive training and came through with flying colors,” Walters said. “They are a very excited team that is very motivated and dedicated.” There are 18 operators and three are bilingual. Walters noted that they are actively recruiting more bilingual operators.
Walters told deJongh with the old system they answered around five calls per hour and with the new the average is 24 calls per hour. He said the new system allows for the operators to log and track all calls. With the old system, Walters said a significant number of calls were dropped. The operators track every call and even call back hang ups. In the past they weren’t able to identify calls made from cell phones. The new system has that capability.
The St. Croix center went live on July 22. Walters said they hope to have the center on St. Thomas up and running by the end of September. He added training began on St. Thomas on Monday.
Walters said the centers will be exactly the same and be backups for each other in case one goes down in a disaster. The center on St. Croix has 12 terminal stations.
The governor and Walters were joined on the tour by cabinet members who oversee first responder agencies: Acting Police Commissioner Novelle E. Francis Jr. and Acting Health Commissioner Julia Sheen.
“A concern is the safety of officers at all times out in the field and with this system there is the ability to track officers at all times,” Francis said. “It has been all positive feedback from officers. The calls are clear from all over the island.”
Walters said it has been a tremendous undertaking with everything upgraded or created from scratch.
“The system expansion will allow the community to feel comfortable.” deJongh said. “VITEMA bought into it and the Virgin Islands are now at the head of the curve.”

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