Kalona Optimist Club tours new Washington communication center

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Recently the Kalona Optimist Club members got a preview of what the new Washington County Communications (E911) Center will look like when it becomes operational.

Sheriff Jared Schneider briefed the Optimist first in the new command center/meeting room that has large screens on the walls with special outlets concealed in the floor that can be used to help control each monitor should there be a disaster of any kind.

The Optimists were also taken to another room where there are four 911 command stations with multiple screens so the Communications operators can monitor all the calls that come into the Communications Center. This room is designed to accommodate two more command statins should the need arise. This would allow Washington County Communications specialist to handle calls from other counties should this center become a regional Communications Center.

E911 Supervisor Cara Sorrells demonstrated how the dispatcher could tell if a call was coming by phone or from a deputy as the color of monitors should show identifying colors. There is also a system for monitoring traffic at certain sites, but right now the only traffic camera is at Riverside.

Board of supervisor chair Jack Seward pointed out that the four command centers are part of a Shared Area Radio Association system, which allows for backup capabilities at neighboring centers. He also pointed out that the center is linked to the tower system built around Washington County.

The tower at the Communications Center is 270 feet tall and at the base of the tower is a shed that houses incoming communications from the other towers. Each tower has backup generators and battery backup including the one on top of the Kalona /Water tower. There is also a new tower at Riverside. The county contracts with Wellman to use their towers at two locations, as well as the Sharon Center telephone tower at G36 and 220th. Each tower is visible to at least one other communications tower and all communicate with each other. 

Sheriff Schneider showed the Optimist the IT room which will eventual house IT backups for all computer equipment from all county offices including the Court House. He also showed the heating and cooling center which utilizes geo-thermal. Plus, there is a large generator for the entire center. 

Sheriff Schneider pointed out that the walls of the Center are 12 inches thick as the building is constructed to withstand a F-5 tornado.

Sheriff Schneider also pointed out that Washington County sheriff Office and Communications Center is part to a 16–county network.

Sorrells and Sheriff Schneider said they plan on the new center becoming operational the first of the year.

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