Sussex County Sheriff’s Office

Sussex County Sheriff’s Office
39 High Street, Newton, NJ 07860 • TEL: 973.579.0850 FAX: 973.579.7884
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AboutCommunications Center

Director: John D. Tomasula

Sussex County Sheriff’s Communications Center

The Sussex County Sheriff’s Communications Center came online in 1990 as a two dispatch position center and has evolved over the years to become a ten dispatch position, capable of serving as a single point Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for all of Sussex County.

Now located on county-owned property in Frankford Township, the facility answered its first 9-1-1 call on December 16, 2014 at 2:24 p.m. reporting a residential smoke condition in Hampton Township.

The communications center provides regular dispatch services for the sheriff’s office and serves as a PSAP for enhanced 911 calls. The center currently serves ten local municipalities with 911 answering/emergency dispatch service:

  • Branchville Borough
  • Frankford Township
  • Fredon Township
  • Green Township
  • Hampton Township
  • Lafayette Township
  • Montague Township
  • Sandyston Township
  • Stillwater Township
  • Walpack Township

History of the Communications Center

The Sussex County Sheriff’s Communications Center came online in 1990 to facilitate coordination of the various duties and responsibilities of sheriff’s personnel and to improve measures to ensure the safety of its members. The two dispatch position center supported the sheriff’s officers in carrying out their official tasks daily and during the evening hours. Some of those measures included establishing regular radio communications between:

  • sheriff’s officers and corrections personnel moving inmates to and from court appearances
  • sheriff’s officers in the field serving various civil processes
  • sheriff’s officers in the field serving domestic violence restraining orders and carrying out court ordered evictions
  • sheriff’s personnel and other agencies delivering mutual aid assistance when requested
Sussex County Sheriff’s Communications Center

In 1995, the communications center began to staff and run the operation continuously, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. The new operation consolidated the sheriff’s dispatch and public works dispatch operations as an effort to more efficiently manage the responsibilities involving emergencies supported by county based services. It also relieved the county corrections facility, the only 24-hour manned operation, from duties outside the scope of normal corrections responsibilities. The center was staffed with 5 dispatchers per day (2 day shift, 2 afternoon, 1 midnight) and those additional tasks included but not were not limited to:

  • Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office
  • Sussex County Fire Marshal
  • Sussex County HazMat Team
  • Sussex County Medical Examiner’s Office
  • Sussex County Department of Public Works
  • Sussex County Facilities Management
  • Sussex County Health Department
  • Sussex County Office of Emergency Management

With the new millennium upon us, the state of New Jersey continued to encourage the consolidation of Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) in the interests of efficiency and economy. There were also technology changes being introduced. The Next Generation 911 (NG9-1-1) was announced as the replacement to the current Enhanced 9-1-1 system and discussions were held relating to the financial impacts to the PSAPs. Consolidation studies funded by the state by RCC Consultants (2000) and the Heldrich Center for Workforce Development/Bloustein School/Rutgers (2006) both concluded with recommendations to consolidate PSAPs for the purpose of improved service and economy. [New Jersey 911 Consolidation Study, October 2006]  

In April 2006 the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders awarded a contract to RCC Associates to conduct a PSAP consolidation feasibility study for Sussex County  . The study focused on analyzing the benefits of consolidating the six PSAPs in Sussex County into one or more countywide PSAPs. RCC delivered its findings and recommendations in a report to the freeholder board in June 2007 recommending consolidation to a single PSAP.

In January 2008, the freeholders established the Sussex County 9-1-1 Telecommunications Working Group (TWG) to further the conclusions drawn from the RCC study and to gauge the public interest and support in consolidating the PSAPs into one center. [2008 freeholder resolution establishing TWG]   In August 2008 the county received a grant through the New Jersey Office of Emergency Telecommunications Services in the amount of $220,000.00 for the “PSAP Consolidation to Regionalization Project.” [Sussex County 2008 news article]  

Using that grant, the freeholders commissioned Kimball & Associates in February 2009 to expand upon the previous consolidation studies and recommendations, and develop guidance and support for the planning and implementation of a countywide consolidated PSAP. The planning guide for PSAP consolidation was delivered to the county freeholder board in February 2010. In a report by the TWG, a motion was made and unanimously carried that “The Sussex County Telecommunications Working Group recommends to the Sussex County Board of Chosen Freeholders the findings of the report of L. Robert Kimball and Associates dated February 2010 and specifically recommends the consolidation of the six current public safety answering points into one county-administered and operated central 9-1-1 center in all respects.” [2010 TWG recommendation]  

2012 groundbreaking

In 2012, the sheriff and the freeholders broke ground on the construction of a ten position stand-alone communications center on county owned property in Frankford Township. The project sought to consolidate an ongoing sheriff’s capital project plan to refurbish the existing 20-year old sheriff’s dispatch center with the TWG recommendations, local emergency service interests and resolution support by officials from local municipalities to consolidate local emergency dispatch services. [Sandyston Township resolution]   This dispatch center was purposely designed to continue supporting the regular duties and responsibilities of the sheriff’s office. It would also be capable of answering emergency 911 calls and dispatching emergency services for the entire county. [County fire chiefs association letter]  

Facilities

The Sussex County Sheriff’s Communications Center was designed and constructed to be able to serve as a single point Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) serving all of Sussex County. The center was built as an addition to the existing emergency operating center in Frankford Township to be in compliance with federal and state construction standards, which include minimizing the potential for threats from natural or human sources. The center is located on a secured site and is continuously monitored through alarms systems and video surveillance.

Ten position dispatch floor

Ten 911 console positions are located on the main communications floor. Positions are staffed to meet the demands of the services that are requested, but a minimum of 2 public safety telecommunicators (PST) are staffed continuously. All data, radio, telephone and other electronic systems are supported by a number of robust redundancy measures to ensure the services can continued to be provided when normal service resources are interrupted.

Hot backup site

By original design, the communications center is supported by a backup facility, often referred to as a “hot site.” The backup site serves as a redundant communications site to the center located in Frankford Township. Real time synchronization between the two sites is used to completely mirror the environment of the main communications site in Frankford using wide area network links and specialized software. In the event of a disruption to the main Frankford site, personnel can relocate to this hot site and resume operations with minimal downtime. In lessons learned from 9/11, this hot site provides for complete redundant emergency communications capabilities from a geographically different location.

The communications center provides reliable professional services, supported by a robust communications plan that provides the following capabilities:

  • Facility designed and constructed to be earthquake and hurricane proof (NENA standard).
  • Adjacent to fully functioning emergency operations center with 14 fully functional emergency services activation positions.
  • Two redundant emergency building power generators, each using a different fuel source—diesel and natural gas.
  • In addition to generator support, UPS battery backup on all critical electronic components.
  • 911 communications center designed and built with ten individual dispatch positions, able to accommodate the entire county 911 call taking and dispatching needs.
  • “Hot” backup remote center at sheriff’s office with three individual dispatch positions that mirror those at the main 911 communication site.
  • Equipped with eight 911 trunks directed between the main 911 communications site and the hot backup site, effectively eliminating a single point of failure.
  • 911 systems supported by three geo-diverse servers—two at the main 911 center in the event one server fails and the third located at the sheriff’s office hot backup site in the event the main 911 communications center experiences a total 911 server failure.
  • Microwave link from sheriff’s office hot backup site to the main 911 communications center to ensure clear communication between the two sites, supported with a robust backup Ethernet fiber connection.
  • Back up battery system and emergency generators at all microwave sights for power outages.
  • Use of eight tower sites throughout the county with numerous backup features with each frequency utilized.
  • Back up UHF/VHF radio in the event of a primary radio failure.
  • Redundant network switches to insure continued data connectivity in the event a failure.
  • Access/use of countywide GIS data for most accurate location and efficient dispatch of calls.
  • Real time monitoring of critical data services to allow for and provide immediate remediation.
  • Real time monitoring of environmental conditions in server and radio rooms to allow for and provide immediate remediation.
  • Redundant HVAC systems in server rooms to insure appropriate environmental conditions for electronics.
  • Currently serving 10 municipal clients as a 911 Public Safety Answering and Dispatch Point.
  • Provides emergency medical dispatch protocols to callers.
  • Provides Text to 9-1-1 service.
  • Provides AVL tracking for sheriff and both paid and volunteer fire and EMS organizations.
  • Robust computer automated dispatch system with mapping to pinpoint specific locations of emergencies to aid in response by emergency first responders.
  • CAD system is fully replicated to a disaster recovery server every 2 hours.
  • Network time synchronization from a satellite to insure accurate time stamping across all resources.
  • EMAG service, which gives our paging function used by local emergency service personnel priority access to the Verizon texting network.
  • Robust records management system able to provide clients with end detailed call reports.
  • NENA compliance—a minimum of two telecommunicators on duty at all times, none of whom are accessible to the public or assigned clerk duties.

Services

Primary Responsibilities

Answer emergency telephone calls:

  • Screen callers to verify emergency location and situation
  • Use resources to locate callers that do not respond
  • Provide pre-arrival emergency instructions when applicable
  • Dispatch and track emergency resources

Enter and verify all necessary data into CAD:

  • Contact information, addresses
  • Responding resources; dispatch, arrival and clearing times
  • Initial report/request information by callers
  • Special requests, contacts, notifications

Answer administrative calls for the sheriff’s office and the communications center and either resolve the inquiry or transfer callers to the proper destination.

Monitor radio communications from sheriff’s officers:

  • Track location/status of officers engaged in assignments, traffic stops, special details
  • Conduct computer inquiries to vehicle ownership, driver status, warrants, criminal histories
  • Track and monitor prisoner transports by sheriff’s/corrections personnel

Additional Responsibilities

  • Monitor 50+ camera sites at the county judicial complex, corrections center, emergency operating center/911 center and sheriff’s main office
  • Receive requests, dispatch resources and make notifications involving the Sheriff’s Office Special Services
  • Receive notifications and requests related to other public safety programs sponsored and managed by the sheriff’s office
  • Receive requests and arrange for afterhours/weekend call out assignments involving county personnel

911 Answering

All 911 calls are answered by specially trained public safety telecommunicators (PSTs). This specialized training includes certification as a basic 911 telecommunicator by satisfactorily completing a course of instruction relating to:

  • enhanced 911 systems and operating procedures
  • interpersonal communications
  • overview of the EMS function
  • overview of the fire function
  • overview of the police function
  • public safety records systems
  • public safety telecommunications systems
  • radio broadcasting rules and procedures
  • telecommunicator role in public safety
  • telecommunicators legal issues
  • telephone techniques
Sussex County Sheriff’s Communications Center

All PSAPs in New Jersey are required to use the New Jersey Emergency Medical Dispatch Guidecards. These guidecards help the PST quickly assess the critical points of a particular situation and the level of emergency service response necessary. They also guide a PST in providing medical instructions to a caller involving many different types of medical emergencies. Those instructions may often save lives or prevent a situation from becoming worse.

Personnel from this PSAP have managed thousands of calls involving cardiac, stroke, diabetic, fall, trauma, childbirth, accident, fires and other emergencies. We see the value in providing this type of intervention.

Text to 9-1-1

The Sussex County Sheriff’s Communications Center accepts 9-1-1 emergency calls via text (SMS) message from within every municipality in Sussex County.

Texting provides a method for individuals to be able to contact a 9-1-1 center for help in situations where their safety could be in jeopardy if they were to be heard speaking. Text to 9-1-1 also provides individuals with special needs or who may not be able to speak, access to emergency services when they need help or want to report an emergency.

When to send a text to 9-1-1:

  • When you have an emergency that requires assistance from police, fire or EMS.
  • If you have a speech or hearing impairment, you can send a text to 9-1-1 using a cell phone or other device. It is recommended that you inform 9-1-1 that you are speech or hearing impaired so that they can inform the responders.
  • If speaking may cause you harm, such as a break-in or domestic violence situation. Remember to silence your phone so that the sound of 9-1-1 replying does not give you away.
  • Peer pressure. You are with a group and some of the members are doing something dangerous or illegal.
  • If you cannot make a voice call with your cell phone because there is no service you may be able to get data service to send a text message.

How to send a text to 9-1-1:

  1. Open the message app on your phone or wireless device.
  2. In "To" type "911" (there is no need to add "-").
  3. In the message field, type the location, (address and municipality) and a brief description of the problem.
  4. Then press "SEND."
  • Be prepared to answer questions and follow instructions from the 9-1-1 call taker.
  • Text in simple words, do not use abbreviations.
  • Keep text messages brief and concise.
  • Messages should be sent in English. If this is not possible a voice call should be made to allow use of translation services for voice calls.

Entering 911 as the name of the person one wishes to communicate with, followed by a message and "send" will alert a dispatcher at the communications center that a new call has been received. A normal exchange of messages will follow in determining the proper response. All devices sending text messages are plotted on a map as soon as they are acknowledged by the dispatcher.

While text to 9-1-1 offers an additional means to contact emergency services, it is important to understand that voice communication is always preferred as the best form of communication. Voice communications allow for quicker exchange of important information and a greater efficiency in getting help to a particular situation.

Employment Opportunities

Appointments to the position of Public Safety Telecommunicator (PST) are made as the need arises. All appointments are made in accordance with New Jersey Civil Service rules and regulations.

To be a successful PST, a candidate must be competent in many of the inter-related duties and responsibilities associated with a 911 communications center. It is not a career to be taken lightly and those who are successful are typically found to be highly motivated with above average interpersonal skills, good reasoning and judgement, and the ability to multitask. In order to meet the demands of rapid data entry, candidates should be able to keystroke at a rate of 40 words per minute. Additionally, PSTs must be at least 18 years of age and pass an extensive background investigation.

In order to serve in this position, a PST must successfully complete the following certification courses, often advertised and offered through local emergency service organizations or local PSAPs:

  • 40-hour Basic Telecommunicator/Communications Officer
  • 32-hour Emergency Medical Dispatcher
  • 8-hour CPR certification

Individuals interested in applying to serve as a PST are encouraged to complete and submit the Sussex County Employment Application .

Annual Reports



Mailing Address

Sussex County Sheriff’s Communications Center
135 Morris Turnpike
Newton, NJ 07860

Telephone Numbers

Tel: 973.940.5500
Fax: 973.948.0579
E-Mail: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this e-mail address)
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Sheriff Michael Strada