Orange County Sheriff's Office Communications Section operates one of the busiest 911 centers in the southeast United States. The new fiscal year saw an increase in staffing bringing our authorized strength to 195 full-time members. This represents the largest contingent of civilian employees in the agency. The majority of personnel are 911 Operators, Dispatchers and Teletype operators. The section also includes training, technical, administrative staff and personnel assigned to the False Alarm Reduction Unit (FARU).
2018 was another eventful year: In January we implemented “Text-to-911” in Orange County. This improved public access to 911, especially for the hearing and speech impaired. To date over one thousand 911 calls have been received via text.
In February, the Communications Section received national recognition when the NextGen911 Institute, a non-profit organization in Washington DC that promotes the advancement of 9-1-1 services, presented it with their “Outstanding 911 Call Center” award.
The Communications Section was also presented with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition “in recognition of your overall excellence in serving the public, including the handling of emergency situations reported to 9-1-1 and the deployment and management of new technology. Congratulations and best wishes on your future endeavors.”
In April 2018, Dispatcher Yesenia Antuna received state-wide recognition when the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and National Emergency Number Association (NENA) named her the 2018 Florida APCO/NENA Public Safety Telecommunicator of the Year. Later in the year 911 Operator Kellie Parsons became the first Public Safety Telecommunicator in the nation to receive an APCO “Teammates in Action” award for her successful efforts to save the life of a suicidal person.
In August Communications implemented Rapid SOS, a technological solution that allows 911 Operators to securely access device-based hybrid location information from smartphones during calls to 9-1-1. Though these are early days, we believe this is a “game changer” that will significantly enhance our ability to save lives.
In October Category four Hurricane Michael made landfall in Bay County obliterating homes and businesses in the Florida Panhandle. OCSO Communications responded within days by deploying a Telecommunicator Emergency Response Team (TERT). They were put to work in the Bay County 911 Center rendering aid to the devastated population. A second TERT team followed and relieved them five days later.
We wrapped up 2018 by continuing to prepare for the arrival of a new CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) system in 2019 and planning for a new building. We also bid farewell to Sheriff Demings and welcomed Sheriff Mina to the agency.
In 2018 OCSO answered 691,963 emergency 911 calls and a similar number of non-emergency calls. An impressive 96.3% of all 911 calls were answered within ten seconds. For the second consecutive year this set a new record and represented our best ever annual answering performance. Furthermore, on a monthly basis, December 2018 was the 41st consecutive month that OCSO Communications has exceeded the state mandate.