Last week’s consolidation of three emergency dispatch centers to one facility in Morton is expected to streamline emergency communications in Tazewell County.

“(There will be) no more having to call around to the four 911 centers any time something is happening in a different community,” said Tazewell Consolidated Communication Center (TAZCOMM) Director Mike Ercegovich. “The dispatchers all know each other and work together. They all receive the same training and are working with the same equipment.”

The consolidation reduces the number of Public Safety Answering Points from four to two, bringing Tazewell County into compliance with a 2015 amendment to the Illinois Emergency Telephone System Act. The amended law requires Illinois counties with a population of less than 250,000 and more than two PSAPs to reduce the number of answering points by 50 percent or to two, whichever is greater. The United States Census Bureau has estimated the county’s population at 132,318. As a result of the act’s requirement, TAZCOMM has combined the Morton, East Peoria and Washington facilities into one call center. The new Morton PSAP became fully operational May 20.

The consolidation of three call centers into one facility required some expansion to and some updates of the Morton PSAP, said TAZCOMM Pekin Manager Abby Hobbs. As part of the expansion, the number of consoles at the Morton PSAP has been increased from four to eight. Each console is a work station equipped with several computer screens, radios and telephones.

“It’s the same center,” said Hobbs “It’s just been updated a little bit. They took the windows out and cemented them off so it’s secure, because (the windows) weren’t bullet-proof.”

There was no need to further consolidate Tazewell County’s other PSAP in Pekin, Hobbs added. The Pekin facility dispatches for 36 agencies, while the Morton call center dispatches for 12. TAZCOMM has 26 full-time employees, six part-time employees and four management personnel. Half of the employees work at each center. She believes the consolidation will have a positive impact on emergency dispatch services in the county, largely because of the cross-training opportunities the move provides.

“It saves on manpower, and we’re all going to be cross-trained to work at both the centers,” said Hobbs. “Anybody from here can go there and work and vice versa. It’s not always the same people having to cover (a center) all the time. There will be a big pool of people who can go to either center.”

According to a March 2016 summary of the Telephone System Act by Chicago-based attorney Stewart J. Weiss, the Illinois General Assembly adopted the act to prepare the state for the implementation of a Next Generation 911 system that will be managed by the Office of the State 911 Administrator. Next Generation 911 (NG911) will provide greater data capacity and broader interoperability with various communication media than the current 911 system. The Statewide 911 Advisory Board called for consolidation of PSAPs after concluding there are too many independent and diverse emergency telephone systems in the state to successfully implement a NG911 solution. The board also determined that consolidation will lead to significant long-term cost savings at both the state and local levels. All local 911 systems are required to become NG911 compliant by July 1, 2020.

TAZCOMM receives its funding through fees for dispatching services from each participating agency. For more information, visit tc3.tazewell911.com.