Emergency operators shift duties in Macon-Bibb merger

lfabian@macon.comDecember 31, 2013 

911_merge

Macon police Lt. Andra Grinstead, left, works with Brandy Moody at the 911 Center on Tuesday.

BEAU CABELL — bcabell@macon.com Buy Photo

The new Macon-Bibb County government will be up and running six hours before the full consolidation of emergency radio operations.

The midnight shifts of the sheriff’s office and police department will end before the new division begins.

“At 6 a.m. (Wednesday), everyone will be blended in and will dispatch on new channels,” said Bibb County Sheriff David Davis.

In recent years, police and fire calls have been dispatched from the city’s 911 center on First Street. Sheriff’s calls went out through radio operators at the Bibb Law Enforcement Center.

As of 3 p.m. Monday, the city began countywide dispatching, Davis said.

Bibb deputies have been working alongside city operators to ease the transition, he said.

Tuesday afternoon in the 911 Center, Bibb Radio Supervisor Lt. Carolyn Love sat next to a Macon operator to help familiarize her with county streets.

“Just a few rough edges, like anything else you start, but we’ll make it work,” Love said.

Dispatchers are having to learn the zones for Bibb County wrecker services that are called by territory to clear streets of damaged vehicles.

While both departments handle similar calls, the coding is different.

Some of the computer coding was tweaked in the transition, but the majority of the radio traffic will shift to county signals.

For example, city operators called an accident a Signal 2, while deputies know it as a 10-50.

“Dispatch folks over at the 911 Center have done a great job learning the codes,” Davis said.

That small change is not so simple when you have been dispatching calls a certain way for several years. (Think about how many times people will write 2013 as the date in the next few weeks.)

Trina Moore, a shift supervisor for the 911 Center, has dispatched Macon police for 29 years.

“I think with time we’ll all adjust to it, but I have confidence in everybody,” Moore said. “We’ll do it as a team.”

Davis expects to hear a mix of signals in the coming weeks, but officers from both departments are familiar enough with the other’s codes to prevent any significant communication barriers.

In major catastrophes, the National Incident Management System encourages operators to use plain language anyway, so communications between agencies are more easily understood.

In advance of the Jan. 1 merger, Bibb County code sheets were distributed to all the dispatcher work stations in case operators need a translation, said Macon police Lt. Andra Grinstead, supervisor of the Macon 911 Center, who is helping oversee the merger.

“We’re going to use both, and whatever shakes out, shakes out,” said Grinstead, who just began her 32nd year with Macon police.

Early Wednesday, she’ll take off her midnight blue uniform for the last time and replace her badge with a deputy’s star.

“It’s kinda sad,” she said. “At some point we’ll merge what’s best. Not one set of rules, but a combination of what works best.”

Although Grinstead’s new responsibilities are not yet clear, the dispatchers’ work has been divided.

As of Wednesday morning, former Bibb radio operators will no longer be taking and dispatching calls. They will be in charge of inputting data into the Georgia Crime Information Center, or GCIC.

Every time an item is stolen, it has to be entered into the computer.

GCIC also requires officers to file updates if an item has been recovered.

“That will keep our folks pretty busy,” Davis said. “It’s going to be enough work for our radio officers.”

The plan calls for the 911 Center to come out from under the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office and become a separate civilian entity of the consolidated government.

Changes made on paper in recent months will now be put to the test.

“We’ve been working very hard making sure everyone is in place,” Davis said.

“Here at crunch time, it’s coming together.”

To contact Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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