NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - They're called "Phone in a Box" and "Radio in a Box."
Dispatcher taking calls at the North Platte 911 Dispatch Center. (Source: Holly Barraclough, KNOP TV)
It's a way North Platte's 911 Center can stay open and operate even if they had to face their own emergency.
North Platte's city leaders agreed to apply for a grant to help pay for new equipment in the Police Department Dispatch Center.
The 911 center in North Platte doesn't just dispatch for the North Platte Police Department, but for dozens of different areas or agencies. Amid Coronavirus concerns, they are looking for other ways to do their job.
Thinking about ways to social distance dispatchers in the call center, the department has applied for a Department of Justice grant to get the Phone in a Box.
It's a device that would enable them to take calls remotely from different areas other than the dispatch center allowing them to not work around others.
"We realized that one of our biggest vulnerabilities was our communication center," said Chief Daniel Hudson, the Police Chief for the North Platte Police Department, "That all of our dispatchers come to work they intermingle, they talk to each other, they sit next to each other and our concern would be if we were to have a positive test in that group of people, everyone that they've had contact with would have to self quarantine for 14 days which would basically take all of our 911 Dispatch Center offline."
The devices they have applied for would get them devices that would help the dispatcher work from virtually anywhere they can get internet service.
"What were submitting grants for is we've submitted grants for two different things one of them is called a Phone in a Box and we requested two of those it's about $36,000 and what that allows us to do is it allows us to plug-in with internet it's two mobile systems that, as long as we can get a good Internet feed we can plug-in and we can answer 911 phone calls whether it's in the courthouse, the City Hall, a trailer, someone's basement, we would answer 911 calls exactly as if we were in 911 Dispatch Center," said Hudson.
Hudson said they have been pre-approved for that device and they were given the all-clear from the North Platte City Council Monday night for the mayor to sign the paperwork for them to apply for the grant dollars.
"The second grant is for $104,000 and that is for it's called Radio in a Box and that's two separate systems again with once we're able to go in and plug those into an Internet server then we can run it through some different security stuff and we can dispatch 911 calls we can talk to the fire department we can talk to all the people that we would normally talk to via radio," said Hudson.
They have been approved by City Council for the mayor to sign off on that, but are waiting on further approval from the grant agency.
Hudson said the equipment would help continue their efforts in serving the community.
"Everything we look at as we look at the continuity of operations, we're in the business that we can't just shut down no matter what it is whether it's tornado, whether, it's a flood, whether it's a global pandemic, the police and fire services have to continue to be able to provide services to our community and what this allows us to do again is it continuity of operations, it allows us to continue to operate and be able to dispatch police and fire services, that's what we are all about is being able to provide police and fire service to our community."
Hudson said they have checked all the boxes to get approved, now they wait.
"We’ve completed all the paperwork, and anyone that’s done grant with the government knows that there’s a lot of paperwork and last night what we had to do was first off go in front of City Council to get City Council approval to authorize the mayor to sign the grant application, so once that was done last night, those grants will be signed by the mayor and then we’ll be submitting those grants to the government."