You might walk by it and never even know.
The Huntsville-Madison County 9-1-1 Center lives 10 feet underground. Eight agencies have their communications hubs there: Huntsville Police, Huntsville Fire & Rescue, Madison County Sheriff’s Office, Madison County Fire Department, City of Madison Police Department, City of Madison Fire Department, HEMSI and the Huntsville-Madison County 9-1-1 System, through which emergency calls are initially fielded.
This centralized approach allows for strong cooperation between groups.
“I don’t think you could find a better example of governments’ successful shared services than we have at 911,” says Ernie Blair, the 9-1-1 Center CEO. “I don’t think you could go state-wide and find it done better. They’re not always natural allies, but out here, they’re a team.”
Blair says that the center receives an average of 620 9-1-1 calls per day, about half of which demand immediate, emergency response. But the actual call volume is more like 2,000 calls per day, as the center also serves as a switchboard for different agencies.
Some 200 workers a day represent all eight agencies, working around the clock. A committee of supervisors from each agency meets monthly to assure communication inside the building is as efficient as communication flowing into and out of the building.
A seven-person board of commissioners is charged with oversight of the center, and there are 28 people on Blair’s staff.
“Everybody out here could probably make more money doing something else,” Blair says. “But what they live for, and I’m on the fringe of that, is saving the life, getting the information to catch the bad guy. They’re all great at putting the pieces together to save that life or get the bad guy or get a fire truck onto a scene a little quicker. They’re dedicated and they’ve got a desire to make this community better.”