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911 Dispatch Center Officially Opens

Times Staff Writer

After almost a dozen years, the phones are finally ringing at a high-tech San Fernando Valley center that handles 911 calls.

The opening of the Valley Communications Dispatch Center in West Hills was officially recognized at a ceremony Monday, although dispatchers have been taking calls there since October. The project originally was scheduled for completion in 2002.

Delays in opening the Valley center and its downtown twin, the already-opened Metropolitan Communications Dispatch Center, were caused by changes made to the building plans after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, said Councilman Greig Smith. Once the structures were completed, another year passed while the technology was installed.

The 55,000-square-foot Valley center, on Roscoe Boulevard near Fallbrook Avenue, employs 128 people and serves more than 1.3 million residents in a 223-square-mile area.

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To help employees cope with the high-stress jobs, each of the 80 work consoles is equipped with four adjustable flat-screen computer panels so that workers may sit or stand to handle calls, as well as individual controls for air temperature and lighting, said Chuck Mealey, assistant commanding officer of communications.

Mealey said the working conditions have improved from the old dispatch facility at Parker Center, which he said was nicknamed “the dungeon.”

In 1992, voters approved $235 million in bonds to build the centers, which will normally work in tandem to take calls and dispatch information. Each center also can function independently in case of an earthquake or other emergency.

The buildings were constructed to withstand a magnitude 8.3 earthquake, and their backup systems can function independently for 72 hours in case of a power outage.

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The centers are meant to help alleviate the 911-call overload burdening Los Angeles police. About 1.8 million 911 emergency calls and 1.5 million nonemergency calls were made citywide in 2002.

Mealy said the Valley center handles about 3,000 calls a day and the downtown facility about 8,000.


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