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Emergency Communications - Twitter Feed

2020

Tasharnda Gainey in Emergency Communications Center
ECO Tasharnda Gainey at work in the Emergency Communications Center in July 2020.

Richmond 911 employee wins heroism award for attempt to save a life while off duty

RICHMOND, Virginia – Helping to save lives is a part of what Tasharnda Gainey does every day for the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications. But her willingness to assist a stranger even during her off-hours earned her a heroism award.

Gainey stopped to help a pedestrian struck by a car on July 24, when she came upon the scene of the crash on Jefferson Davis Highway in Chesterfield.

“I have a medical background. If I see somebody in need, I have to stop,” said Gainey, an emergency communications officer with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications since 2008.

Because of her willingness to render aid, even when not on the job, the department presented Gainey with its first Heroism Award on Aug. 12.

“Tasharnda’s actions exemplify our employees’ passion for helping others, both on-duty and off-duty,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the department.

On the evening of July 24, Gainey picked up her 2-year-old twins from the babysitter. Back home in North Chesterfield, her 17-year-old daughter said she wanted Popeyes. Even though other Popeyes locations are closer, Gainey headed toward Chester.

“I cut around, and it was an extremely long way. I just could not think how to get there,” said Gainey, a resident of North Chesterfield for 22 years. “I drove all around and told the kids, ‘I guess we’re taking a ride today’.”

After passing Willis Road on Jefferson Davis Highway, she saw a truck pulled sideways and a sedan.

“I could see someone lying in the road,” she said. “I could kind of see him from the side, and I yelled to my daughter, ‘turn your head; don’t look’.”

Getting out of her car, Gainey was surprised that no one was helping the victim, even though others were nearby.

“My God, there’s nobody here,” she thought. “I heard no sirens, nothing. That freaked me out more than his condition.”

She called 911 in Chesterfield and reported a pedestrian struck in the southbound lane of the 9400 block of Jefferson Davis Highway. “Step it up; he’s in bad shape,” she told them.

His chest was not moving, and she checked for a pulse. As the 911 call-taker prepared to give her instructions on how to start chest compressions, Gainey told her she already was doing them.

A former emergency medical technician with the Bensley Bermuda Rescue Squad in Chesterfield and trained in CPR as a dispatcher, Gainey continued the compressions, keeping time to the beat of “Staying Alive,” she said, and counting aloud to the 911 call-taker.

Later, another bystander offered to help, but she continued until Fire and EMS personnel arrived and took over. Unfortunately, the victim did not survive.

Back in the car, her daughter had called Gainey’s mother, telling her, “Mommy’s doing CPR by the side of the road.” Surprised, her mother asked her, “So you stopped again?”

In 2002, Gainey had stopped to help at the scene of crash near the intersection of interstates 295 and 64 in Henrico County. She ended up being summoned to testify as a state witness in a court case in which a person was convicted of vehicular manslaughter.

“I stopped this time because I didn’t see anybody helping him,” she said. “Somebody needed help. That drew me in. I couldn’t just drive by. I wouldn’t be OK with it.”

I was just trying to go to Popeyes. We still didn’t get any – the line was massively long,” Gainey said. And when her daughter complained later, she told her, “You’ll be fine without that Popeyes chicken sandwich.”

Describing her difficulty in finding her way to the Chester restaurant, Gainey’s mother told her, “You know how to get around. That was weird.”  And both her mother and babysitter told her, “You were meant to go that way.”

Richmond 911 campaign named a Virginia Public Relations Awards winner

Richmond, VA -- A campaign to recognize Richmond’s 911 workers has been named a Virginia Public Relations Awards winner.

The Richmond Department of Emergency Communications’ #IamRichmond911 campaign was named an Award of Merit winner in the government communications category of the 73rd Annual Virginia Public Relations Awards on May 19, 2020.

The department spotlighted one employee each month in 2019 and early 2020 who serves the community, both on and off the job. This #IamRichmond911 campaign sought to raise awareness of the sometimes-overlooked but crucial role that emergency communications serves in helping to save lives and protect property and the environment in Richmond, as well as the contributions of its employees to the community. 

The 12 staff members were featured in original photos, posters, feature stories and social media posts, February 2019 through March 2020. The campaign helped to “put a face” on more than 100 employees of the department, who answer and dispatch all 911 calls around-the-clock and provide public safety infrastructure for the city. The campaign increased the recognition of employees and the public’s awareness and understanding of what they do in an effort to reduce issues leading to a staff shortage.

Karen L. Gill, communications and marketing analyst for the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications, developed and implemented the #IamRichmond911 campaign with the support and cooperation of the DEC Director Stephen Willoughby, other DEC executive team members, supervisors and selected employees.

“Emergency communications officers are the faceless voice during an emergency,” Willoughby said. “This campaign not only put a face on the responders behind the scenes but also showed how our talented employees continue to contribute to our community outside of the 911 center. Fortunately, we also have a talented public relations professional in Karen to help us tell these important stories.”

The 73rd Annual Virginia Public Relations awards, government communications category was sponsored by the Virginia Government Communicators and presented by the Richmond Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America and Padilla.

Jackie Crotts
Deputy Director of Technology Jackie Crotts is the final #IamRichmond 911 honoree.

Richmond honors Deputy Director of Technology Jackie Crotts

RICHMOND, Virginia –From a very young age, Jackie Crotts knew what he wanted to be.

“I can remember seeing my grandpa getting up at all hours of the night to go help people. I wanted to be just like him.”

The deputy director of technology for the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications (DEC), Crotts is responsible for supporting
critical systems for the emergency communications center, including public safety technology and communications. He is the 12th and final #IamRichmond911 honoree.

His grandfather, Dale Hawks, was a charter member of the Cana (Virginia) Volunteer Fire Department in the rural community in southwestern Virginia. He remembers hearing the continuous ring of the emergency calls on his grandfather’s house phone.

“They called it the fire line …way before 911,” Crotts said. “He had a spare closet where he kept his gear. I remember going in there and putting his hat on. I wanted to go with him. … When he came home from a call, I was told stories and got a play-by-play, which drove the desire to follow in his footsteps.”

Crotts got to tag along to the fire house starting around age 8. In high school, he began volunteering with the Cana Volunteer Fire Department then became a certified firefighter and EMT. 

“I’ve seen bad accidents – 100-car pileups. I’ve cut people out of cars. In a small community, a lot of the people you’re going to help are people you know,” Crotts said. “I miss it. I don’t forget where I come from.”

After a short stint working with computers in the textile industry, he began answering and dispatching 911 calls with Forsyth County Fire Department in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He became a system administrator there before taking the same position with DEC in 2007.

“My background and my grandfather’s influence prepared me for what I do at DEC,” Crotts said. “Since I was a firefighter and a communications officer, I understand being on the other side of the radio as well as taking 911 calls.”

In 2015, he was promoted to technical services operations manager, which became the new position of deputy director of technology.

“We’re working behind the scenes to make sure our public safety partners have the tools to respond to calls and communicate with our officers 99 percent of the time,” Crotts said.

“We’re dedicated to providing a high level of service to the public and our public safety partners. We’re that conduit, so the public can get the services they need on their worst day. ...With text-to-911, next
generation 911 and the 800 800MHz radio system, we’re striving to stay on the cutting-edge of technology.”

Now a husband, father and grandfather himself, he still feels his grandpa’s influence.

“The decision my grandfather made to be a volunteer responder touched our entire family ...Volunteer firefighting and EMS goes beyond the average volunteer work in small communities. It becomes a lifestyle. … If you need something, he’s the guy you call. Still is – and he’s 88.”

Crotts raises funds for the Richmond Police Athletic League (PAL), coaches his children’s sports teams and volunteers at his church.

“One of the things I’m proud of is working with the PAL golf tournament. I bring in all the vendors that we work with on donations and sponsorships through the people I know and my connections.”

Held each year in May at the Stonehenge Golf and Country Club, the golf tournament is the primary fundraiser for PAL.

About #IamRichmond911

Working around the clock to answer and dispatch 911 calls for the city of Richmond are about 55 emergency communications officers. Additional employees with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications install and maintain the city's public safety communications systems. Support and administrative staff members bring the department’s total number of employees to about 100.

The collective work of these staff members meets and exceeds national industry standards. On May 4, 2019, the department achieved national accreditation by Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA). Less than 2 percent of all emergency communications center in the United States achieve accreditation.

For twelve months in 2019 and early 2020, the department spotlighted one employee each month who serves the community, both on and off the job. This program, “#IamRichmond911,” seeks to raise awareness of the sometimes-overlooked but crucial role that emergency communications serves in helping to save lives and protect property and the environment in Richmond, as well as the contributions of its employees to the community. 

“It takes a unique individual with compassion and a true desire to help others to work in emergency communications,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications.

“Our emergency communications officers must have the necessary skills and aptitude to gather essential information from individuals on what is most likely the worst day of their lives and to manage emergency services for law enforcement, fire, and medical services so that the right assistance is provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. They would not be able to do that without the support of our technology division and administrative staff, as well.

“I am proud of the work of each of the employees of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications, and I congratulate our #IamRichmond911 honorees for the work they do every day to serve the citizens of Richmond and their communities.”

Michael Sweeney at Pipes and Drums practice
Michael Sweeney practices with the Metro Richmond Police Emerald Society Pipes and Drums group in January 2020. Photo by Karen L. Gill/Richmond Department of Emergency Communications

Richmond honors Emergency Communications Officer Michael Sweeney

RICHMOND, Virginia – “Say what you mean, and mean what you say.” That phrase envelops everything, Michael Sweeney says.

An emergency communications officer with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications (DEC) since June 2017, Sweeney is the #IamRichmond911 honoree for December 2019.

His family taught him the importance of the phrase.

“To say what you mean is to the point and factual, while to mean what you say is to back it up with the right action and tone,” he said.

It is important in his personal life, as well as at work, where he helps to teach in the Basic Dispatch Academy and is working toward becoming a Certified Training Officer, he said.

“I want to help influence the department in a different way and to share my experience with new people,” he said. “Clarity is everything. … I want everyone to be on the same page and aware of the same things and to have as much information as possible.”

Having all of the necessary information is critical when getting help to the public, Sweeney said.

“The more information we get, the better help we can be,” he said. “We are looking to help callers in the best way possible. We are working while they are talking and we are talking to make sure they get the help they need from the closest emergency unit that could assist them. …They need to understand that it takes some time. It’s not as immediate as they might see on TV.”

Communicating and passing along the necessary information is also very important.

“I try my best to get them the help that they need and look out for the best for our fellow emergency communications officers and first responders. We have to make sure that everything is passed along at once in the way that it’s supposed to be.”

Outside of work, Sweeney understands the importance of everyone “being on the same page,” as well. He plays the snare drum and tenor drum with two Pipes and Drums groups, Old Dominion Firefighters Emerald Society and Metro Richmond Police Emerald Society.

He attends practices every week and performs about 24 times a year, including at Celtic and Irish festivals, Richmond Flying Squirrels games, inaugurations, funerals, parades, and public and private events.

He started playing drums in school, where he was in marching band in high school and wind ensemble at Lynchburg College.

“I wanted to remain musically involved,” he said. “I enjoy being able to express myself and learning new skills, such as flourishing techniques, spinning the mallets and doing crazy tricks I learned on my own.”

About #IamRichmond911

Working around the clock to answer and dispatch 911 calls for the city of Richmond are about 55 emergency communications officers. Additional employees with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications install and maintain the city's public safety communications systems. Support and administrative staff members bring the department’s total number of employees to about 100.

The collective work of these staff members meets and exceeds national industry standards. On May 4, 2019, the department achieved national accreditation by Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA). Less than 2 percent of all emergency communications center in the United States achieve accreditation.

For twelve months in 2019 and early 2020, the department spotlighted one employee each month who serves the community, both on and off the job. This program, “#IamRichmond911,” seeks to raise awareness of the sometimes-overlooked but crucial role that emergency communications serves in helping to save lives and protect property and the environment in Richmond, as well as the contributions of its employees to the community. 

“It takes a unique individual with compassion and a true desire to help others to work in emergency communications,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications.

“Our emergency communications officers must have the necessary skills and aptitude to gather essential information from individuals on what is most likely the worst day of their lives and to manage emergency services for law enforcement, fire, and medical services so that the right assistance is provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. They would not be able to do that without the support of our technology division and administrative staff, as well.

“I am proud of the work of each of the employees of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications, and I congratulate our #IamRichmond911 honorees for the work they do every day to serve the citizens of Richmond and their communities.”

Dawn Bishop in ECC
Emergency Communications Officer Dawn Bishop in the Emergency Communications Center, October 2019.

Photo by Karen L. Gill/Richmond Department of Emergency Communications. 

Richmond honors Emergency Communications Officer Dawn Bishop

 RICHMOND, Virginia – Dawn Bishop says that she gets “the biggest rush” from helping her community – and it “runs in the family.”

An emergency communications officer with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications since April 2018, she is the November 2019 #IamRichmond911 honoree.

“I enjoy helping people in their time of need,” Bishop said. “I try to be the calm voice, even when callers are having the worse tragedies they can imagine. If I’m calm, it will help them to be calm. ... I want the public to know that as soon as we have their address and what’s wrong, we’re already sending help their way.”

Bishop also volunteers at least 24 hours a month as a firefighter with Prince George County. She’s been involved with fire departments since age 16, she said, starting as a fundraiser with the women’s auxiliary and becoming a certified firefighter in 2015.

At least twice, she has been recognized for helping to save lives. On Oct. 11, 2015, she received a Lifesave Award from the Prince George County Fire and EMS Department for a 2014 incident in which she and two others saved a person who clinically died twice during sudden cardiac arrest.

“I was working a festival as a stand-by medic,” Bishop explains that day. “As we were packing up and leaving at the end of the day, a father and son were passing the area where we were, when the father started having chest pains … We started doing vitals on him and ended up taking him to the closest hospital due to the severity of the pains. When we got to the hospital, he coded, and we all chipped in to bring him back.”

In July 2019, she came to the aid of a man and his children when a gate crashed through their car’s windshield at a youth baseball tournament in Lumberton, North Carolina. Bishop and her family were attending the tournament to watch her son play.

“I do everything from helping people put in smoke detectors up to working bad accidents,” she said. “You never know what you’re going to get.”

Married to an emergency medical technician who is also a volunteer firefighter, Bishop has three sons, ages 10, 12 and 20, and the oldest recently also became a certified firefighter.

“I want to be a role model for my children. If my kids see me taking time out of my day to make sure that others get the help they need, then it encourages them to do the same.”

 Bishop also helps others as a member of the Red Knights Virginia Chapter 8 Motorcycle Club, which supports the Evans-Haynes Burn Center at the Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. The organization provides toys for children being treated that they can keep.

“We’ve gotten feedback that the kids absolutely love it, and the parents are grateful,” Bishop said.

She and her husband have been members of the organization for about three years, and her two younger children are junior members as well.

“We try to do as much as we can together. … I don’t want my kids to be thinking of themselves all the time. I want them to be willing to help people when they need it.”

About #IamRichmond911

Working around the clock to answer and dispatch 911 calls for the city of Richmond are about 55 emergency communications officers. Additional employees with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications install and maintain the city's public safety communications systems. Support and administrative staff members bring the department’s total number of employees to about 100.

The collective work of these staff members meets and exceeds national industry standards. On May 4, 2019, the department achieved national accreditation by Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA). Less than 2 percent of all emergency communications center in the United States achieve accreditation.

In early 2019, the department began spotlighting one employee each month who serves the community, both on and off the job. This program, “#IamRichmond911,” seeks to raise awareness of the sometimes-overlooked but crucial role that emergency communications serves in helping to save lives and protect property and the environment in Richmond, as well as the contributions of its employees to the community. 

“It takes a unique individual with compassion and a true desire to help others to work in emergency communications,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications.

“Our emergency communications officers must have the necessary skills and aptitude to gather essential information from individuals on what is most likely the worst day of their lives and to manage emergency services for law enforcement, fire, and medical services so that the right assistance is provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. They would not be able to do that without the support of our technology division and administrative staff, as well.

“I am proud of the work of each of the employees of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications, and I congratulate our #IamRichmond911 honorees for the work they do every day to serve the citizens of Richmond and their communities.”

More than 60% of 911 survey respondents rank performance as excellent or good

RICHMOND, Virginia – Those who live, work and study in Richmond have a very positive perception of the city’s 911 services.

This is the result from a survey conducted by the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications (DEC), July 30-Sept. 7, 2019. Adults ages 18 and older who live, work or study in the city of Richmond could complete the 15-question survey online or on paper at community outreach events in the city.

The department received 968 valid responses to the survey from all areas and demographic groups in Richmond. Of those, more than 60% of the total number of 968 valid survey respondents ranked the overall performance of the department as “excellent” or “good.” Nearly 65% agreed that DEC employees treat all citizens with respect, and 65% agreed that employees are courteous.

“We invest in training our employees to be skilled in appropriate dispatch protocols, but also in how to effectively communicate with the public,” said DEC Director Stephen Willoughby. “These results help to prove that our training efforts are successful in providing a high level of customer service to those who call 911 in Richmond.”

Other survey questions asked whether respondents had concerns about the services provided by the department, and 90% answered “no,” while 87% had no suggestions or recommendations for improvements.

The 229 responses that were provided to these two questions demonstrated the need for increased public education on 911 and public safety, which the department will continue to address. This includes promoting the availability of text-to-911 in Richmond, which became available on June 4, 2018, and the need for call-takers to get location and other information from 911 callers.

“We continue to increase our in-person engagement with the community, where we educate the public on 911,” Willoughby said. “In 2017, we hired a full-time, experienced communications and marketing professional to lead our department’s efforts to engage with the community and provide 911 information.”

The survey was conducted, in part, to fulfill the Department of Emergency Communications’ requirements for accreditation. The department received the National Public Safety Communications Accreditation on May 4, 2019, from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc. (CALEA). Less than 2 percent of emergency communications centers in the United States achieve accreditation.

The survey will be repeated every three years as part of accreditation requirements.

See full survey results.

April Tyler in ECC
Emergency Communications Officer April Tyler in the Emergency Communications Center. Photo by Karen L. Gill/Richmond Department of Emergency Communications

Richmond honors Emergency Communications Officer April Tyler

RICHMOND, Virginia – Originally interested in a career in nursing or teaching, April Tyler applied for the communications officer position “fresh out of high school,” not really knowing what it entailed.

She developed a passion for the work of helping others, she said, and now describes herself as the “youngest oldest” person at the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications, having joined in February 2004. She is the October 2019 #IamRichmond911 honoree.

“I enjoy seeing the results of helping people. With 911, people are calling me for help, and I have an impact. I can see that I am helping,” Tyler said. “The world is suffering every day. I see the struggles, and I feel like I’m doing something to help.

“We’re behind the scenes, but we’re the first help they get. It’s just as important as those who respond to the scene. We help them through the first few minutes of their tragedy or problem.”

Tyler has been a training officer for more than a decade, assisting with on-the-job training for new employees, which allows her to tell herself that she is still teaching, as she had planned, she said.

“I enjoy newcomers and meeting new students. It’s rewarding to see the students’ progress. I’m as excited as they are when they walk across the stage and finish the program. I feel like I was a part of that.”

Outside of work, Tyler has been volunteering at A Grace Place, an adult day care center for people with disabilities, since she was in high school.

“It became a humbling experience to sit down and listen to stories with different people with different backgrounds and situations,” she said. “It’s like a coaching session. I’m helping them to meet their goals.”

She also volunteers at the schools of her three children, who are in pre-kindergarten, first grade and fifth grade.

“As a parent, it’s important to be involved in your child’s life, school and activities,” she said. “If you want to have a hand in things, it benefits you and your child to actually be there, and for the teachers to know your face and the principal to know your name.”

And she believes it’s good for the children – her own and their classmates – to see her in uniform.

“It helps at home for my kids to see law enforcement in a positive way: ‘My mom comes home in a uniform, and she’s nice.’ They are just as proud of this uniform as I am. … When I go to help out at schools, they have hundreds of questions. I sit down at their small table and let them see that we’re here to help.

“The uniform comes with a bad reputation that citizens have gotten one way or another that’s not the case. We’re put here as a service to the citizens of Richmond. Our relationship should be a positive one. You can come to us and get confirmation, kind words or advice. We’re approachable, and we’re here to help.”

About #IamRichmond911

Working around the clock to answer and dispatch 911 calls for the city of Richmond are about 55 emergency communications officers. Additional employees with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications install and maintain the city's public safety communications systems. Support and administrative staff members bring the department’s total number of employees to about 100.

The collective work of these staff members meets and exceeds national industry standards. On May 4, 2019, the department achieved national accreditation by Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA). Less than 2 percent of all emergency communications center in the United States achieve accreditation.

In early 2019, the department began spotlighting one employee each month who serves the community, both on and off the job. This program, “#IamRichmond911,” seeks to raise awareness of the sometimes-overlooked but crucial role that emergency communications serves in helping to save lives and protect property and the environment in Richmond, as well as the contributions of its employees to the community. 

“It takes a unique individual with compassion and a true desire to help others to work in emergency communications,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications.

“Our emergency communications officers must have the necessary skills and aptitude to gather essential information from individuals on what is most likely the worst day of their lives and to manage emergency services for law enforcement, fire, and medical services so that the right assistance is provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. They would not be able to do that without the support of our technology division and administrative staff, as well.

“I am proud of the work of each of the employees of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications, and I congratulate our #IamRichmond911 honorees for the work they do every day to serve the citizens of Richmond and their communities.”

2019

Tory Maye waves to Christmas parade attendees, 2019.

Pictured: Tory Maye, deputy director of operations for the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications,  greets attendees at the Richmond Dominion Energy Christmas Parade on Dec. 7, 2019. Photo by Karen L. Gill/Richmond Department of Emergency Communications

Richmond honors emergency communications Deputy Director Tory Maye

RICHMOND, Virginia – With a degree in business and plans for management, Tory Maye applied for multiple positions with the city of Richmond in 2004. Fortunately, the Department of Emergency Communications (DEC) was the first to offer him a job, as an emergency communications officer.

By 2007, he was promoted to an assistant communications officer and also took on the added responsibility of supervising part-time employees, which exposed him to the DEC’s background investigation and hiring processes. He then applied – twice – for the next level promotion to communications officer supervisor, but was turned down.

“I kept my attitude straight and kept working,” Tory said. “I knew that I had to wait for the right time.”

That time came in 2015, when he applied and was hired as the DEC’s deputy director for operations, its first after it became an independent department separate from the Richmond Police Department, under a civilian director.

“I already had an executive/department head mentality when I took the job, so it didn’t seem so far-fetched for me to be able to serve as a deputy director,” Tory said. “And I had experience with the areas that I would be overseeing – accreditation, payroll, quality assurance. Budgeting was the only new thing, but I had educational training in that area. I swung for the fence, and I made it.”

He also credits his ability to jump from a first-level manager to second-in-command of the department, in part, to his background as a Richmond native and his relatability as a married father with five children.

“I understand what’s going on, on the other side of the phone,” he said. “I’m a lifelong Richmond resident, and for most of the situations the callers are in, I’ve actually lived it. I’ve walked in their shoes. This isn’t just something I was trained on.

“I don’t take lightly what I’ve accomplished, but if I can do it, others can too. Many are just looking for a job, but anyone interested in a stable career should give Richmond Emergency Communications a shot.

“The people who are answering the 911 calls here really care. But we ask the public to please be patient with us. We’re the second-busiest call center in the commonwealth. Sometimes, it’s hard to get every call within 10 seconds during peak call times, but more than 90 percent of the time, we do.”

Outside of work, Tory volunteers as a soccer coach and referee at J.B. Fisher Elementary School, as a musician at Mount Gilead Full Gospel International Ministries, and as a board member with his homeowners’ association.

When his oldest child started playing soccer, he offered to help out, even though he had no experience. “I couldn’t just sit back as a parent and watch my kids not have a coach,” he said.

Consistently showing up for games led to him being asked to take on a more permanent volunteer position as coach and referee, which he’s now been doing for five years on multiple leagues.

“It quickly went from being a coach to being a Saturday mentor to kids whose fathers weren’t as available to pitch in,” he said.

He said it’s gratifying to hear that the kids refer to him as a positive male role model and to see them learning and advancing.

“The biggest things that I get out of it is instilling teamwork and character development and teaching kids to have a good attitude,” he said. “Parents aren’t always up to being able to teach that from a coach’s perspective, so they really appreciate it.”

 

About #I Am Richmond 911

Working around the clock to answer and dispatch 911 calls for the city of Richmond are about 60 emergency communications officers. Additional employees with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications install and maintain the city's public safety communications systems. Support and administrative staff members bring the department’s total number of employees to about 100.

The collective work of these staff members meets and exceeds national industry standards. On May 4, 2019, the department achieved national accreditation by Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA). Less than 2 percent of all emergency communications center in the United States achieve accreditation.

In early 2019, the department began spotlighting one employee each month who serves the community, both on and off the job. This program, “#I Am Richmond 911,” seeks to raise awareness of the sometimes-overlooked but crucial role that emergency communications serves in helping to save lives and protect property and the environment in Richmond, as well as the contributions of its employees to the community. 

“It takes a unique individual with compassion and a true desire to help others to work in emergency communications,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications.

“Our emergency communications officers must have the necessary skills and aptitude to gather essential information from individuals on what is most likely the worst day of their lives and to manage emergency services for law enforcement, fire, and medical services so that the right assistance is provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. They would not be able to do that without the support of our technology division and administrative staff, as well.

“I am proud of the work of each of the employees of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications, and I congratulate our #I Am Richmond 911 honorees for the work they do every day to serve the citizens of Richmond and their communities.”

Director Stephen Willoughby and Kathy Berg

Pictured: Director Stephen Willoughby presents Kathy Berg with an award for her instrumental work in the DEC earning CALEA accreditation in May 2019. Photo by Karen L. Gill/Richmond Department of Emergency Communications. High-resolution image.

Recent retiree Kathy Berg is honored as next #IamRichmond911 honoree

 RICHMOND, Virginia – A child was home alone when a burglar entered her Richmond home in the late 1980s. Fortunately, she called 911, and Kathy Berg answered. She was able to keep the child calm and safe until police arrived to apprehend the suspect.

“Crashing sounds, footsteps and other noises could be heard in the background,” Berg said of that call early in her career as a communications officer with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications (DEC). “I was so scared that something would happen to that little girl, as I helplessly listened on the other end of the line ... Using the skills that I had learned from on-the-job training, my co-workers, and my earlier EMS days, I was able to calm the caller, provide instructions, and keep her safe until the police arrived and apprehended the suspect.

“This little girl was an inspiration to me. She was frantic when she called but was calmed quickly using basic techniques, which allowed me to guide her through this very traumatic experience. This call helped to mold me in this profession,” she said.

The August 2019 #IamRichmond911 honoree, Berg was hired on Oct. 13, 1986, after beginning her public safety career as an emergency medical technician in Richmond through a city-contracted service.

“I wanted to become a police officer, where I could utilize the skills I had developed working EMS, but I changed my path to communications and never looked back,” she said. “I strived to do all I could to excel in my new position. In the beginning, it was a struggle to learn everything required, but with determination and repetition, I was able to prosper. I kept going to the next level where I could be the voice that made the difference.”

Over 33 years with the DEC, Berg served in multiple roles, including communications officer supervisor, training specialist, program manager and operations manager, and her final position as the accreditation and professional standards manager.

“No matter where you come from, if you are honest with yourself and others, have integrity, are sympathetic and empathetic, you too could be a 911 dispatcher,” she said. “Overall, I’ve had a good career at the DEC, but it’s time for me to move on to the next phase of my life and let others make the difference.”

In 2019, she was instrumental in helping the DEC achieve national Public Safety Communications Accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc. Requiring the modification and development of multiple policies, procedures and practices, accreditation is earned by less than 2 percent of all emergency communications centers.

“Accreditation demonstrates to the public that we operate and are accountable to a higher level of standards, and that we provide an exceptional level of service for their needs,” she said. “This was my final goal for the department and with that completed, so am I.”

After her Nov. 1, 2019 retirement, Berg hopes to do even more work with her church, Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Richmond, where she has attended since childhood and serves in various volunteer roles.

“Vacation Bible School and our fall festival are big community events for our church, and I just try to do my little part to assist,” she said. “It’s a way for me to give back to the community and hopefully assist people in knowing there is somewhere they can feel safe, come to when they’re in trouble, and assist them in finding their spirituality.”

About #I Am Richmond 911

Working around the clock to answer and dispatch 911 calls for the city of Richmond are about 55 emergency communications officers. Additional employees with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications install and maintain the city's public safety communications systems. Support and administrative staff members bring the department’s total number of employees to about 100.

The collective work of these staff members meets and exceeds national industry standards. On May 4, 2019, the department achieved national accreditation by Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA). Less than 2 percent of all emergency communications center in the United States achieve accreditation.

In early 2019, the department began spotlighting one employee each month who serves the community, both on and off the job. This program, “#I Am Richmond 911,” seeks to raise awareness of the sometimes-overlooked but crucial role that emergency communications serves in helping to save lives and protect property and the environment in Richmond, as well as the contributions of its employees to the community. 

“It takes a unique individual with compassion and a true desire to help others to work in emergency communications,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications.

 “Our emergency communications officers must have the necessary skills and aptitude to gather essential information from individuals on what is most likely the worst day of their lives and to manage emergency services for law enforcement, fire, and medical services so that the right assistance is provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. They would not be able to do that without the support of our technology division and administrative staff, as well.

“I am proud of the work of each of the employees of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications, and I congratulate our #I Am Richmond 911 honorees for the work they do every day to serve the citizens of Richmond and their communities.”

Stephen Willoughby, Bill Hobgood accept award

Pictured: Bill Hobgood, technology lead for application services with the City of Richmond’s Department of Information Technology, right, and Stephen Willoughby, director of the Department of Emergency Communications, accept a 2019 City Government Experience Award from Teri Takai, executive director of the Center for Digital Government, left, on Sept. 27, 2019. High-resolution digital image. 

Automated alarm system developed by City of Richmond wins  2019 City Government Experience Award  

RICHMOND, Virginia – A system to improve the response to alarms that was developed by the City of Richmond and spread across the country has won its 12th project award.

The system, Automated Secure Alarm Protocol or “ASAP,” reduces the time and increases the accuracy for 911 emergency communications centers to dispatch first responders to homes and businesses when alarms are activated.

On Sept. 18, the City of Richmond was named a 2019 City Government Experience Award winner for the ASAP system by the Center for Digital Government, a national research and advisory institute focused on information technology policy and best practices in state and local government.

 Through the ASAP system, alarm notifications are entered automatically into Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) systems, bypassing the need for alarm companies to make telephone calls into 911 emergency communications centers.  

“This system frees up call-takers to answer 911 calls, because the alarm notifications go directly to dispatch,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications, where the system was originated and first used.“It saves time and decreases errors.”

Each 911 call into the center takes an average of 84 seconds to process. During the June 30, 2018, to July 1, 2019, fiscal year, Richmond’s emergency communications center received nearly 10,000 automated notifications through the ASAP system, meaning that the system saved a total of 212 hours of call-takers’ time and resulted in faster response times, he said. 

Since it was developed and fully implemented in Richmond in January 2009, the ASAP system has won 11 previous national and state awards. The 2019 City Government Experience Award is the first one to be based on the system’s outcomes in use, according to Bill Hobgood, technology lead for application services with the City of Richmond’s Department of Information Technology, who wrote the program.

It is now used by 20 alarm monitoring companies and more than 60 911 emergency communications centers across 15 states, plus the District of Columbia. These agencies report reduced 911 processing times equating to faster response times, more law enforcement apprehensions, fires extinguished more quickly and lives saved, Hobgood said.

 “We have received reports from several agencies that use the ASAP program of cases of bad guys being arrested, and fires being extinguished quicker, all because of this program, and a quicker response by public safety resources,” Hobgood said. “It makes me feel great that we were able to produce a product that other agencies can use and experience the same benefit that Richmond has experienced.”

Hobgood wrote the original Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system for the city of Richmond in 1979-1981, which was used for 26 years until the hardware manufacturer went out of business. He then worked with several partner agencies to replicate the system with an interface to send alarm notifications directly into the CAD, bypassing the need for telephone calls for these notifications, which eventually became the ASAP system.

“Bill has immense talent, which we have been fortunate to be able to put to use in continuing to make the Department of Emergency Communications even more efficient,” Willoughby said.

The system was approved as an American National Standard by American National Standards Institute in January 2009 and renewed in 2014. The combined population it serves is about 20 million, which is expected to exceed 32 million by the end of this year, Hobgood said. 

 Richmond honors emergency communications staff member Lamonte Thomas

RICHMOND, Virginia – Lamonte Thomas likes to see other people win, and he works with two groups with the same goals.

Thomas started as an emergency communications officer with the Department of Emergency Communications (DEC) on April 17, 2017. Recently cleared to work fire dispatch, he is the July 2019 #IamRichmond911 honoree.

He answers 911 calls, helping people on their worst days of their lives, on various shifts that have included nights, weekends and holidays.

“No matter how many times you’ve been through it or how many years you’ve worked, each time you answer the call, it’s different,” Thomas said. “For each caller, it’s their emergency. It’s of the utmost importance to them. Being there to help them is the most important.”

In addition to answering 911 calls, Thomas and DEC’s about 54 other emergency communications officers also handle radio communications and dispatch law enforcement, fire, and other city units to keep the city of Richmond safe.

“We do everything together,” he said. “The communication we have and how everyone works together is amazing. It all works like a well-oiled machine.”

He wants everyone in Richmond to know that DEC is here for them.

“We’re here to help, no matter what the issue is. Trust that we are going to point you in the right direction. Even if we can’t physically be there to help, we can send you the resources and help you in the best way possible.”

Away from work, Thomas continues to help others as the director of member services for ShineHard Family, a nonprofit organization that works to close the racial wealth gap in the United States. According to the shinehardfamily.org website, it does this by “providing role model visibility for every industry. Transferring knowledge from one generation to the next. Providing a blueprint for financial success, and intentionally connecting minority business leaders to foster economic empowerment.”

Thomas said he became interested in the organization as a classmate of the organization’s founder in Colonial Heights, Virginia, and now he keeps members connected and helps to share leadership traits and skills with other millennial leaders.

“It brings together everyone’s agenda and shines a light on what people are good at,” he said. “It provides inclusive access to anybody with initiative. It’s pretty inspirational.”

About #IamRichmond911

Working around the clock to answer and dispatch 911 calls for the city of Richmond are about 55 emergency communications officers. Additional employees with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications install and maintain the city's public safety communications systems. Support and administrative staff members bring the department’s total number of employees to about 100.

The collective work of these staff members meets and exceeds national industry standards. On May 4, 2019, the department achieved national accreditation by Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA). Less than 2 percent of all emergency communications center in the United States achieve accreditation.

In early 2019, the department began spotlighting one employee each month who serves the community, both on and off the job. This program, “#I Am Richmond 911,” seeks to raise awareness of the sometimes-overlooked but crucial role that emergency communications serves in helping to save lives and protect property and the environment in Richmond, as well as the contributions of its employees to the community. 

“It takes a unique individual with compassion and a true desire to help others to work in emergency communications,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications.

 “Our emergency communications officers must have the necessary skills and aptitude to gather essential information from individuals on what is most likely the worst day of their lives and to manage emergency services for law enforcement, fire, and medical services so that the right assistance is provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. They would not be able to do that without the support of our technology division and administrative staff, as well.

“I am proud of the work of each of the employees of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications, and I congratulate our #I Am Richmond 911 honorees for the work they do every day to serve the citizens of Richmond and their communities.”

Provide your opinion on Richmond’s 911 services, enter prize drawing

RICHMOND, Virginia – Adults who live, work or study in the city of Richmond can enter a drawing for a new Ring Video Doorbell 2 for completing a 15-question survey on 911 services.

The Richmond Department of Emergency Communications (DEC) is conducting the 911 survey as part of the requirements for accreditation. The department received the national Public Safety Communications Accreditation on May 4 from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc. (CALEA).

The survey is designed for those who are aged 18 and older and who live, work or study in the city of Richmond to provide input on the services and information provided by the department. It can be accessed at https://karengill3522.survey.fm/richmond-911 through Aug. 29. Paper versions of the survey and drawing entry form are available upon request.

To enter the prize drawing, respondents can provide their name and phone number at the end of the survey. The information provided will not be associated with their survey responses, and it will be used only to notify the winner. One winner will be chosen at random from all valid entries and notified by telephone and/or email. Employees and their immediate family members are not eligible to win. The winner has until Dec. 15, 2019, to claim the prize.

For more information, please contact Karen L. Gill, 804-646-8234, karen.gill@richmondgov.com

About CALEA

The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc., (CALEA®) was created in 1979 as a credentialing authority through the joint efforts of law enforcement's major executive associations: International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP); National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE); National Sheriffs' Association (NSA); and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF).

The purpose of CALEA’s Accreditation Programs is to improve the delivery of public safety services, primarily by: maintaining a body of standards, developed by public safety practitioners, covering a wide range of up-to-date public safety initiatives; establishing and administering an accreditation process; and recognizing professional excellence.

Specifically, CALEA’s goals are to: Strengthen crime prevention and control capabilities; Formalize essential management procedures; Establish fair and nondiscriminatory personnel practices; Improve service delivery; Solidify interagency cooperation and coordination; and Increase community and staff confidence in the agency.

The CALEA Accreditation Process is a proven modern management model. Once implemented, it presents the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), on a continuing basis, with a blueprint that promotes the efficient use of resources and improves service delivery — regardless of the size, geographic location, or functional responsibilities of the agency.

This accreditation program provides public safety agencies an opportunity to demonstrate voluntarily that they meet an established set of professional standards based on industry best practices and approved by an all-volunteer board of commissioners.

Richmond honors emergency communications staff member D.C. Creasy

 RICHMOND, Virginia – Coming from a public safety family, David C. “D.C.” Creasy Jr. learned to pay it forward.

“Since I was young, my dad and grandpa taught me to do what I could to help others,” said Creasy, electronics specialist supervisor for the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications (DEC) and the #IamRichmond911 honoree for June 2019.

For 10 years, Creasy was a volunteer firefighter for Chesterfield County. After an injury ended his service, he missed helping the less fortunate, he said, and he was dealing with his dad’s extended illness.

A friend introduced him to the Bearded Villains, a self-described “brotherhood of elite bearded men from all over the world” that supports its members as well as helps others, his friend told him.

A bit skeptical at first, Creasy wondered whether Bearded Villains was like a gang, so he talked to his dad about it.

“Dad thought it was a great thing, no different from him being in Shriners,” Creasy said.

Since joining the Virginia chapter in August 2018, he has competed in beard competitions to raise funds and helped veterans, the homeless, breast cancer survivors, Special Olympics and more, Creasy said.

“It brings all races and beliefs of bearded guys together to help each other and to help others,” he said.

For one event, he loaded up his 8-foot truck bed to take clothes to a potluck for the homeless.

“It was a very eye-opening and humbling experience,” he said. “Some people see bearded guys all tatted up and think, ‘Oh, here’s a biker gang.’ We’re not. We’re here to do things for those who need it. It’s nice getting to see how much people appreciate it.”

Creasy joined the Technology Division of the DEC in 2015 and became a supervisor in 2017. He manages the work of installing and maintaining vehicle technology to meet the unique needs of officers on Richmond’s roads and waterways.

He and his team turn basic models into specialized vehicles such as the Fire Marshall K9 SUV, which includes detailed systems to sense and monitor the internal environment for the working dogs, and police
detective cruisers with specialized lighting.

“We give departments the best equipment they can get with the money they’re given, so people can focus on their jobs,” he said.

Creasy says that he is uniquely suited to his position, serving those who serve the public.

“I know what men and women in public safety go through and what the public goes through. ... I can make good decisions on a level playing field as a citizen and as a member of public safety.

“The people who come with the lights and sirens are not the only ones helping the public. There are people helping them that the public doesn’t see and doesn’t even know about. But there is no public safety without them. 911 is the beating heart of public safety.”

About #IamRichmond911

Working around the clock to answer and dispatch 911 calls for the city of Richmond are about 60 emergency communications officers. Additional employees with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications install and maintain the city's public safety communications systems. Support and administrative staff members bring the department’s total number of employees to about 100.

The collective work of these staff members meets and exceeds national industry standards. On May 4, 2019, the department achieved national accreditation by Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA). Less than 2 percent of all emergency communications center in the United States achieve accreditation.

In early 2019, the department began spotlighting one employee each month who serves the community, both on and off the job. This program, “#I Am Richmond 911,” seeks to raise awareness of the sometimes-overlooked but crucial role that emergency communications serves in helping to save lives and protect property and the environment in Richmond, as well as the contributions of its employees to the community. 

“It takes a unique individual with compassion and a true desire to help others to work in emergency communications,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications.

 “Our emergency communications officers must have the necessary skills and aptitude to gather essential information from individuals on what is most likely the worst day of their lives and to manage emergency services for law enforcement, fire, and medical services so that the right assistance is provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. They would not be able to do that without the support of our technology division and administrative staff, as well.

“I am proud of the work of each of the employees of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications, and I congratulate our #I Am Richmond 911 honorees for the work they do every day to serve the citizens of Richmond and their communities.”

Richmond honors emergency communications staff member Leon Corbin

 RICHMOND, Virginia – Leon Corbin says that he wishes there was no need for a 911
emergency communications center.

“My prayer is that we wouldn’t need a 911 center, that people would just get along,” said the assistant communications officer supervisor at the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications (DEC). “But until that day comes, we’ll be here.”

A city of Richmond employee since 1998, Corbin came to the DEC as an emergency communications officer in 2006, and was promoted to an assistant communications officer supervisor in 2014. He has been chosen as DEC’s “#I Am Richmond 911” honoree for May 2019.

Corbin works 12-hour shifts, making sure that DEC’s high standards of customer service are being met, so that those who call for service are getting the help they need.

“We’re a bunch of people just like you whose purpose is to serve you. People outside of here feel that we’re some kind of superhuman. But we’re just like you, we’re trained to answer the call for help and dispatch first responders.”

Corbin feels that answering the call for help is more than just his job.

“God put us here to help people when they call. Not every day is perfect, but it’s the intrinsic value of helping people -- and they’re all God’s people. You’re not always going to get rewards and accolades, but I know that I am doing what God would have me to do. When you call, just know that I’m sending help, but I’m praying for you, too.”

Outside of the DEC, Corbin enjoys helping and inspiring others, by serving as a youth minister at New Canaan Worship Center in Richmond. He and his wife, Latasha, lead Sunday school, Bible study and children’s church, as well as organize the youth to participate in other church programs, including helping to feed the homeless and  participating in community walks. Each year, they organize a youth revival also.

“The youth are the future of the church, the community and everything we do. My hope is to give them guidance and show them an example. It’s good to see kids who grow up and come into their own and continue to serve others. It’s part of how I inspire them.”

About #Iam Richmond911

Working around the clock to answer and dispatch 911 calls for the city of Richmond are about 60 emergency communications officers. Additional employees with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications install and maintain the city's public safety communications systems. Support and administrative staff members bring the department’s total number of employees to about 100.

The collective work of these staff members meets and exceeds national industry standards. On May 4, 2019, the department achieved national accreditation by Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA).

In early 2019, the department began spotlighting one employee each month who serves the community, both on and off the job. This program, “#I Am Richmond 911,” seeks to raise awareness of the sometimes-overlooked but crucial role that emergency communications serves in helping to save lives and protect property and the environment in Richmond, as well as the contributions of its employees to the community. 

“It takes a unique individual with compassion and a true desire to help others to work in emergency communications,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications. “Our emergency communications officers must have the necessary skills and aptitude to gather essential information from individuals on what is most likely the worst day of their lives and to manage emergency services for law enforcement, fire, and medical services so that the right assistance is provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. They would not be able to do that without the support of our technology division and administrative staff, as well.

“I am proud of the work of each of the employees of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications, and I congratulate our #I Am Richmond 911 honorees for the work they do every day to serve the citizens of Richmond and their communities.”

Richmond 911 center earns national accreditation

GAINESVILLE, Virginia – The national accreditation for public safety communications has been awarded to Richmond’s 911 agency.

The Richmond Department of Emergency Communications (DEC) received the national Public Safety Communications Accreditation on May 4 by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEAÒ).

Through the multi-year accreditation process, the department voluntarily demonstrated how it meets international best practices in public safety and professionally recognized criteria for excellence in management and service delivery. It completed a self-assessment phase and a meticulous site-based assessment in October 2018 of community engagement, policy, procedures, equipment and facilities by CALEA assessors.

“The accreditation process has evolved Richmond DEC from a good emergency communications center to a great center,” said Director Stephen M. Willoughby. “CALEA’s benchmarks will help ensure that we remain a high-performance organization that provides superior service to those who live, work and play in the city of Richmond,” he said.

The accreditation was awarded during the CALEA conference, May 1-4, 2019,  in Huntsville, Alabama. Willoughby and Tory Maye, deputy director of operations; Jackie Crotts, deputy director of technology; and Kathy Berg, emergency communications manager, accepted the accreditation, after appearing before CALEA’s 21-member Board of Commissioners that reviewed all findings and determined its accreditation status.

This is DEC’s first award of national accreditation. It now moves into CALEA’s four-year accreditation cycle that includes four annual remote, web-based file reviews and a site-based assessment in the fourth year.

“This award of accreditation does not come easy,” said CALEA President Anthony Purcell. “The Richmond Department of Emergency Communications went through a rigorous review and evaluation of their organization and then implemented the necessary policy and procedure changes. The process does not stop now. By voluntarily choosing to seek CALEA accreditation, DEC commits to an ongoing review of adherence to CALEA’s standards. The Richmond community should be feel confident that DEC is going above and beyond and operating under the highest standards in public safety.”

CALEA was created in 1979 through the combined efforts of four major law enforcement organizations: the International Association of Chiefs of Police, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, National Sheriffs’ Association and the Police Executive Research Forum.

Benefits of Accreditation

Controlled liability insurance costs: Accredited status makes it easier for agencies to purchase liability insurance; allows agencies to increase the limit of their insurance coverage more easily; and, in many cases, results in lower premiums.

Stronger defense against lawsuits and citizen complaints: Accredited agencies are better able to defend themselves against lawsuits and citizen complaints. Many agencies report a decline in legal actions against them once they become accredited.

Greater accountability within the agency: Accreditation standards give the Chief Executive Officer a proven management system of written directives, sound training, clearly defined lines of authority, and routine reports that support decision making and resource allocation.

Staunch support from government officials: Accreditation provides objective evidence of an agency’s commitment to excellence in leadership, resource management, and service-delivery. Thus, government officials are more confident in the agency’s ability to operate efficiently and meet community needs.

Increases community advocacy: Accreditation embodies the precepts of community-oriented policing. It creates a forum in which police and citizens work together to prevent and control crime. This partnership helps citizens understand the challenges confronting law enforcement and gives law enforcement clear direction about community expectations.

Improved employee morale: Accreditation is a coveted award that symbolizes professionalism, excellence, and competence. It requires written directives and training to inform employees about policies and practices; facilities and equipment to ensure employee safety; and processes to safeguard employee rights. Employees take pride in their agency, knowing it represents the very best in public safety.

About CALEA

The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc., (CALEA®) was created in 1979 as a credentialing authority through the joint efforts of law enforcement's major executive associations: International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP); National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE); National Sheriffs' Association (NSA); and the

Police Executive Research Forum (PERF).

The purpose of CALEA’s Accreditation Programs is to improve the delivery of public safety services, primarily by: maintaining a body of standards, developed by public safety practitioners, covering a wide range of up-to-date public safety initiatives; establishing and administering an accreditation process; and recognizing professional excellence.

Specifically, CALEA’s goals are to: Strengthen crime prevention and control capabilities; Formalize essential management procedures; Establish fair and nondiscriminatory personnel practices; Improve service delivery; Solidify interagency cooperation and coordination; and Increase community and staff confidence in the agency.

The CALEA Accreditation Process is a proven modern management model; once implemented, it presents the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), on a continuing basis, with a blueprint that promotes the efficient use of resources and improves service delivery—regardless of the size, geographic location, or functional responsibilities of the agency.

This accreditation program provides public safety agencies an opportunity to voluntarily demonstrate that they meet an established set of professional standards based on industry best practices and approved by an all-volunteer board of commissioners.

Richmond honors emergency communications staff member Deborah Jackson

 RICHMOND, Virginia – Having beaten cancer twice, Deborah Jackson knows that encouragement from others is important to survival. And she wants to share that with others.

A payroll specialist for the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications (DEC) since August 2014, Jackson has been chosen as the department’s “#I Am Richmond 911” honoree for April.

At work, she helps to ensure that pay and hours are accurate for the department’s employees, including 911 call-takers and dispatchers, technology staff, supervisors, administrators and others.

“I love what I do,” Jackson said. “I love what the DEC employees do for the city of Richmond, and I want to make sure that they get what they deserve. I love to have the opportunity to smile at and greet the emergency communications officers when they come in, because you don’t know what kind of difficult calls they might get that day.”

Outside of work, she shares her story of survival as a breast cancer awareness advocate with Sisters Network Central Virginia Inc., the first national African American breast cancer survivorship organization, where she serves on the executive board.

She speaks at engagements throughout the city of Richmond and the commonwealth of Virginia, educating men and women about breast cancer and encouraging them to get tested.

Jackson also volunteers through Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Glen Allen, where she is the sponsor of ushers ages 5-12 and works with the security and evangelism ministries. Once a month, she helps feed the less fortunate with the church.

“I just go out and talk to people and serve people,” she said. “It gives them an opportunity to share and for us to pray with them.”

In addition to her work with DEC, Sisters Network Central Virginia and Mt. Olive Baptist Church, Jackson enjoys spending quality time with her six grandchildren.

“We do everything they’re not supposed to do: Grandma time,” she said.

She said it is important for her to give back to let others know that they are not alone.

“For what I’ve been through, I have this joy that I want to spread. There are a lot of sad people in the world. If I touch one person, it makes a difference. There is light at the end of the tunnel.”

About #Iam Richmond911

Working around the clock to answer and dispatch 911 calls for the city of Richmond are about 60 emergency communications officers. Additional employees with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications install and maintain the city's public safety communications systems. Support and administrative staff members bring the department’s total number of employees to about 100.

The collective work of these staff members meets and exceeds national industry standards. In May 2019, the department expects to complete the final step to becoming accredited by Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA).

In early 2019, the department began spotlighting one employee each month who serves the community, both on and off the job. This program, “#I Am Richmond 911,” seeks to raise awareness of the sometimes-overlooked but crucial role that emergency communications serves in helping to save lives and protect property and the environment in Richmond, as well as the contributions of its employees to the community. 

“It takes a unique individual with compassion and a true desire to help others to work in emergency communications,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications. “Our emergency communications officers must have the necessary skills and aptitude to gather essential information from individuals on what is most likely the worst day of their lives and to manage emergency services for law enforcement, fire, and medical services so that the right assistance is provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. They would not be able to do that without the support of our technology division and administrative staff, as well.

“I am proud of the work of each of the employees of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications, and I congratulate our #I Am Richmond 911 honorees for the work they do every day to serve the citizens of Richmond and their communities.”

Richmond selects March honoree for new #IamRichmond911 recognition

 RICHMOND, Virginia – As a middle-school student, Ortoria Hymons had a mentor who understood and empathized with the pressures and obstacles she faced daily. As an adult, her gratefulness for that positive influence in her life has compelled her to give back.

Hymons, a Richmond Department of Emergency Communications employee since September 2005, has been selected as the March honoree in the “#IAmRichmond911” program. She started as an emergency communications officer, answering and dispatching 911 calls. Hymons is now a training unit assistant supervisor, providing professional development and training for communications officers.

“We do empathize and sympathize with the callers,” Hymons said. “Some of what they’re going through, we’ve gone through before or might even be going through now. We’ve experienced loss, and we know what it’s like. But we don’t always find out the end result of our helping. I felt like I wanted to do more.”

She began working with youth by volunteering as a mentor in the Richmond Public School system, the Richmond Police Department’s Mirror Me program and at the Peter Paul Development Center. After receiving training through the Virginia Mentoring Partnership Program, she started her own organization, Youth With A Destiny.

Through her organization, she works with Communities in Schools to mentor middle-school girls at Henderson Middle School bi-weekly, as well serving as a youth etiquette consultant and hosting her own events for youth.

“I just want to offer a listening ear, words of encouragement and let them know that I want to see them succeed,” Hymons said of the youth she works with. “I am able to see a change in their attitude, once they see that you are dedicated and committed to them on your own time and want to improve their situation.”

In addition to her work with DEC and Youth With A Destiny, Hymons is the mother of an active 7-year-old and working toward a degree in sociology/criminal justice and becoming a mediator for the Virginia Judicial System.

About #Iam Richmond911

Working around the clock to answer and dispatch 911 calls for the city of Richmond are about 60 emergency communications officers. Additional employees with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications install and maintain the city's public safety communications systems. Support and administrative staff members bring the department’s total number of employees to about 100.

The collective work of these staff members meets and exceeds national industry standards. In May 2019, the department expects to complete the final step to becoming accredited by Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA).

In February, the department began spotlighting one employee each month who serves the community, both on and off the job. This program, “#I Am Richmond 911,” seeks to raise awareness of the sometimes-overlooked but crucial role that emergency communications serves in helping to save lives and protect property and the environment in Richmond, as well as the contributions of its employees to the community. 

“It takes a unique individual with compassion and a true desire to help others to work in emergency communications,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications. “Our emergency communications officers must have the necessary skills and aptitude to gather essential information from individuals on what is most likely the worst day of their lives and to manage emergency services for law enforcement, fire, and medical services so that the right assistance is provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. They would not be able to do that without the support of our technology division and administrative staff, as well.

“I am proud of the work of each of the employees of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications, and I congratulate our #I Am Richmond 911 honorees for the work they do every day to serve the citizens of Richmond and their communities.”

Radio Shop meets needs of Richmond’s public safety on roads, waterways with new technology

 RICHMOND, Virginia – Interior car temperatures monitored by cell phone. Lights and sirens that shut off automatically when the vehicle is put into park. Windows that roll down when the interior gets too hot.

 These features might sound like science fiction, but they are just a few examples of vehicle technology currently being installed and maintained by the Technology Division of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications (DEC).

Within the DEC’s Technology Division are two full-time and one part-time electronics technicians, overseen by an electronics technician supervisor, who specialize in meeting the unique needs of public safety officers on Richmond’s roads and waterways. The technicians work on everything from dump trucks, roadway paint trucks, school buses and fire apparatus to police boats and motorcycles in bays at the “Radio Shop.”

“When we had Bobcats in here, you would have thought the guys were in a candy store,” said D.C. Creasy, electronics technician supervisor. “The only thing we have not worked on is aircraft.”

 In addition to installation and maintenance for the city of Richmond, the technicians perform work for Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Union University, Richmond Ambulance Authority, Richmond Metropolitan Transportation Authority and others, Creasy said.

 These organizations get vehicles from the manufacturer as basic models, just as an individual would order. They send these basic models to the DEC Radio Shop to add technology that turns them into specialized vehicles, such as the Fire Marshall K9 SUV, which includes detailed systems to sense and monitor the internal environment for the working dogs, and police detective cruisers, with specialized lighting.

 “The technology is so detailed now, we can do really crazy stuff on the computer,” Creasy said. “We get to build some really cool things. We get to make different light patterns and functions and put them where you can’t even see them. We’re pretty good at hiding stuff.”

 The technicians work closely with public safety leadership for input, problem-solving and approval before installation, Creasy said. In fact, the ability to solve problems is the number one skill he looks for in hiring technicians, said Creasy, who came to the Richmond DEC Radio Shop in 2015, after starting as an installer at the Chesterfield Radio Shop, and became the supervisor in 2017.

 “Electronics are based on theory, but they have to think on the fly to problem solve,” Creasy said. “If things are not working when it should be, they have to figure out why. If we can’t get the parts we need, then we make them. If what we’re doing isn’t working, we have to change how we work.”

 Even though many government agencies have done away with their own radio shops, they are a way to lessen the impact of inflation on labor costs, Creasy said, adding that the DEC Radio Shop can perform work faster and less expensively than private companies, because of state and city contracts.

 Also, it is one of the few shops in Richmond that can do this type of work, Creasy said. With their ingenuity, speed and experience in electronics, mechanics and metal fabrication, he said he would put his technicians up against any others in the area.

 “Where else can you work to put cameras in vehicles?” he said.

Richmond honors emergency communications staff members with new “#I Am Richmond 911” recognition

RICHMOND, Virginia – Working around the clock to answer and dispatch 911 calls for the city of Richmond are about 60 emergency communications officers. Additional employees with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications install and maintain the city's public safety communications systems. Support and administrative staff members bring the department’s total number of employees to about 100.

The collective work of these staff members meets and exceeds national industry standards. In May 2019, the department expects to complete the final step to becoming accredited by Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA).

In February, the department began spotlighting one employee each month who serves the community, both on and off the job. This program, “#I Am Richmond 911,” seeks to raise awareness of the sometimes-overlooked but crucial role that emergency communications serves in helping to save lives and protect property and the environment in Richmond, as well as the contributions of its employees to the community. 

“It takes a unique individual with compassion and a true desire to help others to work in emergency communications,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications. “Our emergency communications officers must have the necessary skills and aptitude to gather essential information from individuals on what is most likely the worst day of their lives and to manage emergency services for law enforcement, fire, and medical services so that the right assistance is provided as quickly and efficiently as possible. They would not be able to do that without the support of our technology division and administrative staff, as well.

“I am proud of the work of each of the employees of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications, and I congratulate our #I Am Richmond 911 honorees for the work they do every day to serve the citizens of Richmond and their communities.”

#IamRichmond911 honoree for February 2019: Delivia Byrd

Confidence and self-esteem are important to Delivia Byrd, and she wants to make sure that everyone she comes in contact with has those qualities.

An emergency communications officer with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications (DEC) since January 2006, Byrd volunteers her time to help others in a wide range of organizations.

“I believe everyone out there deserves a chance,” Byrd said. “Everyone deserves to have a foundation.”

Education provides that foundation, she said, and for about four years, she has been teaching adult learners who need help in math, science and English to earn their General Equivalency Diploma, or GED. She tutors students in libraries, restaurants and her home for as long as they need help, she said.

In addition, she mentors children through the Richmond Police Department’s Mirror Me program and the Police Athletic League. She also works with other community organizations to reduce domestic violence and purchases toiletries to donate to shelters.

“I do it because I’m a firm believer that it only takes one human to be humane,” she said. “We take the time to be that one human here at the DEC daily.”

As one of about 54 full-time emergency communications officers, Byrd answers and dispatches 911 calls for the Richmond Police Department, Richmond Fire Department and the Richmond Ambulance Authority.

“We are integral to citizens getting these great services,” she said. “We have empathy, compassion, and we’re great decision-makers.”

Handling life-and-death events daily takes a toll, though, on her and her co-workers, she said.

“It’s more than a job. It’s more than a paycheck. It takes an exceptional person to handle the stress and responsibility. We are here for a greater reason.”

Byrd also is a general instructor and a certified training officer, assisting with the professional development of employees, and during more than 13 years at DEC, she has earned numerous awards.  But, that is not why she is dedicated to her career.

“Over the years, I’ve saved a lot of police and citizens’ lives. It’s just natural for me to do it. When you walk in here, you never know what’s going to happen. Some days I’m frightened, and some days I’m ready. I’m courageous, and I fight the fear of the unknown.”

Richmond 911 using a new service to help locate 911 calls from mobile devices

RICHMOND, Virginia – A new tool is now helping the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications to get fast, accurate location information from mobile devices for emergencies.

Getting the accurate location for an emergency is the top priority for 911 call-takers, and the first step to dispatching first responders. The new tool, RapidSOS NG911 Clearinghouse, is an online platform to help pinpoint the location when the caller is unsure or unable to provide the location or when information provided by the cell phone company based on tower location is not specific enough.

This was the case on Jan. 13, when a Richmond 911 call-taker answered a call for domestic violence but was not able to get a location from the caller immediately. The 911 supervisor was able to find the location through the RapidSOS NG911 Clearinghouse.

“In this case, the first responders were there more quickly, because of our use of RapidSOS, rather than waiting for the caller to give the address,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications. “Rather than using radio signals from the telephone and triangulating the towers to get a general idea of the location, RapidSOS asks the cell phone where it is.”

Jackie Crotts, the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications deputy director of technology, said that it is simple to use. “Essentially when the enabled device (iPhone iOS 12 or Android version 4.0 and up) calls 911, the location is sent to the RapidSOS NG911 Clearinghouse. Our 911 emergency communications supervisors make a request for the location, using one of our automated systems,” he said.

Crotts said that the location information is only available for active calls and only for those calls coming from the 911 emergency communications centers’ area.

“It helps us better locate callers, but nothing bypasses having a smart person behind the headset to get the best location and response,” Willoughby said.

RapidSOS is a free service available to authorized 911 emergency communications centers.

“The Richmond Department of Emergency Communications is leading the way in 911 technology to improve emergency response,” said RapidSOS CEO Michael Martin. “We are thrilled to provide Richmond call-takers and dispatchers with the information they need to get citizens help quickly in an emergency, saving lives and property.”

For more information about the service, visit https://rapidsos.com/ng911clearinghouse/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFoRYuW5hps

2018

Public comments sought for Richmond 911 accreditation process

RICHMOND, Virginia – Representatives from a national organization will be conducting an on-site assessment of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications in October, and they want the public’s opinion as part of the assessment.

The Department of Emergency Communications has invited assessors from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA) to examine all aspects of the policy and procedures, management, operations and professional services of the city’s emergency communications center.

Members of the public are invited to offer comments by telephone, 1-3 p.m., on Oct. 9. The public should call 1-213-289-3427 with PIN 159407. Telephone comments are limited to 10 minutes and must address the agency’s ability to comply with the CALEA commission’s standards. Comments will be taken directly by the assessment team.

Written comments about the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications’ ability to meet the standards for accreditation may be sent to: Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement, Inc. (CALEA®), 13575 Heathcote Boulevard, Suite 320 Gainesville, VA 20155.

Emergency call buttons at GRTC Pulse stations being misused

RICHMOND, Virginia – Emergency call buttons on the new GRTC Pulse stations are getting a lot of use, but not the intended kind. Officials are asking for the public’s help in reducing misuse.

The buttons are located on posts in 25 Pulse stations within the city of Richmond. When pressed, they connect directly to 911 call-takers at the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications and are intended to be used for requesting police, fire or medical assistance during emergencies.

According to the Department of Emergency Communications computer-aided dispatch system, the buttons generated 95 calls to 911 from May 5 to July 30. Of those, 85 were silent. 

“Whenever we get a silent call to 911, whether it’s from an emergency call box or anywhere else, we attempt to call back at least two times to determine the location and type of emergency,” said Stephen Willoughby, director of the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications. “If we are not able to reach anyone, but we are able to determine the location, we dispatch a police officer to investigate. So if there is no emergency, the time and resources of our communications officers and police officers have been used unnecessarily.”

The Richmond Department of Emergency Communications and GRTC are working together to find ways to reduce the number of these unnecessary calls from Pulse stations. Possibilities discussed in early meetings include adding additional signs and placing clear covers over the buttons to prevent them from being pressed accidentally.

The public is asked to help reduce misuse of the emergency call buttons by avoiding leaning on the posts and preventing children from playing near the posts or pressing the buttons.

If the buttons are pressed accidentally, citizens should not leave the location. Instead, they should stay by the call box and explain to the call-taker that the call was a mistake.

Also, if 911 is called by mistake from any telephone, callers should remain on the line and explain to the call-taker that the call was a mistake.

These actions will prevent additional 911 telephone lines and communication officers from being used for call backs and prevent a police officer from being dispatched unnecessarily to investigate.

Website lists live, emergency events for city of Richmond

RICHMOND, Virginia – Richmond residents and members of the news media now have access to a live feed of emergency events in the city.

As of July 2, police, fire and public works events are listed on the Department of Emergency Communications website at the Active, Live Events Feed link

The automated, live feed lists emergency events that have been reported to the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications through calls and text messages to 911.

Events are entered in the computer-aided dispatch system by 911 communications officers and are automatically displayed in the feed. The webpage refreshes every 45 seconds. The events will remain active on the website feed until they have been closed by the departments that are handling them.

The feed is being provided by the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications as an alternative to police radio transmissions. The chief law enforcement officers of Chesterfield, Henrico and Richmond begin encrypting police radio frequencies as of July 2, so that only authorized public safety personnel can monitor them.

For inquiries about the calls and texts for service to 911, please contact the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications. For inquiries and more information about the individual events, please contact the respective department: Richmond Police Department, Richmond Fire Department and the Richmond Department of Public Works.

Text-to-911 now available in the Richmond Capital Region

RICHMOND, Virginia – Getting help in an emergency is now faster and easier for those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing in the Richmond capital region.

As of June 4, those who are not able to call 911 can send a text message to 911 for emergency assistance in Richmond, Chesterfield County and Henrico County. This service already is available in Colonial Heights and Hanover County.

“We encourage residents to call 911 when they can and to text when they can’t,” said Stephen Willoughby, director and chief of Richmond’s Department of Emergency Communications. “If you are deaf or hard-of-hearing, you can’t speak or it’s not safe for you to speak, you can send a text to 911. Otherwise, it’s best for you to call,” he said.

Residents should follow these additional guidelines when texting 911, Willoughby said:

Do:

  • Call if you can, text if you can’t.
  • Send a text message to 911 if you are deaf or hard-of-hearing, can’t speak, or it is not safe for you to speak.
  • Provide the exact location of the emergency in the text message.
  • If you do not receive a reply by text or if you receive a reply that texting is not available, call 911.

Do Not:

  • Do not text and drive.
  • Do not send photos or videos to 911 at this time.
  • Do not copy others on the message to 911. Text-to-911 cannot include more than one person.

Text-to-911 was implemented in the Richmond Capital Region as the result of a grant awarded by the Virginia Information Technologies Agency in the 2017 fiscal year.

For more information about Text-to-911 in the Richmond Capital Region, visit tinyurl.com/captext911.

For more information about Text-to-911 nationally, visit https://www.911.gov/issue_textto911.html or https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/what-you-need-know-about-text-911.

Construction offers test of Richmond 911 contingency plan

RICHMOND, Virginia – Ongoing construction at the Richmond Emergency Communications Center will provide an opportunity to test contingency plans next week for 911 call-taking and dispatch.

During the day on May 30, some communications officers with the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications will work in alternate locations. The move is needed to ensure the safety of employees, while roofing trusses are being installed to join the existing building where they work to an addition under construction.

“We’re using an abundance of precaution to protect the safety of our highly skilled employees, while continuing to protect the safety and well-being of the residents of Richmond,” said Stephen Willoughby, director and chief of Richmond’s Department of Emergency Communications. “Our communications officers will still answer and dispatch all 911 calls using the same equipment and systems they use every day, but they will be in different locations.”

Willoughby said the move is not expected to cause any disruption or change in capability or services.

“It will be invisible to the public and to the first responders,” he said.

About 15 communications officers plus some supervisors will work in alternate locations within the Department of Emergency Communications, 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on May 30. Others will continue to work in their normal locations, while some will work in Henrico County Emergency Communications Center.

Richmond and Henrico County use the same telephone system and regional radio system. Richmond Department of Emergency Communications’ technology division has set up virtual private networks that communications officers will use to remotely access Richmond’s computer-aided dispatch system while working in Henrico County’s center.

All equipment and systems have been tested to ensure the operation will be seamless, Willoughby said.

“We’ve made the investment in our radio system and technology and worked with our regional partners so that if something were to happen, on this day or any other day, we are prepared to handle it and continue to answer 911 calls and dispatch needed services,” Willoughby said.

The addition under construction adds a $2.8 million training center and second parking lot to the Emergency Communications Center that was built in 1999. Construction began in September 2017 and is expected to be completed in October 2018.

The changes brought by construction also provide a real-life opportunity for the department to exercise its city-required continuity of operations plan. The plan covers how the department would remain operational during many possible scenarios in which access to the building or equipment is restricted, major equipment and systems malfunction, or substantial numbers of workers are out.

These plans have been tested several other times since the Richmond Department of Emergency Communications became a department separate from the Police Department on July 1, 2014, Willoughby said. Primarily because of major equipment upgrades, these past real-life exercises also have involved having Richmond communications officers work in Henrico. Reciprocating, Henrico County communications officers also have worked in Richmond’s Emergency Communications Center before.

Richmond among first in nation to use new public safety wireless network

RICHMOND, Virginia – Richmond’s public safety officials are among the first in the country to begin using a new wireless broadband network built exclusively for their use to save lives and protect communities.

Richmond’s Department of Emergency Communications recently began testing this new network, called FirstNet, and expects to have it in use throughout the city by the end of 2018.

Created by an independent authority within the U.S. Department of Commerce in partnership with AT&T, FirstNet will allow Richmond’s public safety officials, including fire, police, 911, and the ambulance authority, to share data without being vulnerable to delays and outages, especially during times of high-usage, such as major events and disasters.

“The decision to go with FirstNet was a no-brainer for us,” said Stephen Willoughby, director and chief of Richmond’s Department of Emergency Communications. “Here we had a federally subsidized program offering us an efficient, reliable system for our first responders to share mobile data with priority and pre-emption.”

Virginia was the first state in the country to opt-in to FirstNet when Gov. Terry McAuliffe signed a letter accepting the FirstNet and AT&T plan on July 10, 2017. Since then, all 50 states, two territories and the District of Columbia have joined.

Richmond and Fairfax County are the first localities in Virginia to begin using the network. Richmond police officers and Department of Emergency Communications executive team members are testing FirstNet during day-to-day operations with phone and mobile data devices, according to Jackie Crotts, the deputy director of technology for Richmond’s Department of Emergency Communications.

“We must have a robust, reliable system that has to be up all the time,” Crotts said. “During the 2011 earthquake, all cell phone service went down because the system was saturated. That won’t happen with FirstNet. There was no up-front cost for the city, because we were able to use our existing mobile data devices. The transition is very smooth,” he said.

FirstNet and AT&T will build, operate and maintain the wireless broadband communications network for Virginia’s public safety community at no cost to the state for the next 25 years, according to FirstNet.

According to its website, FirstNet and AT&T will:

·         Connect first responder subscribers to the critical information they need in a highly secure manner when handling day-to-day operations and responding to emergencies.

·         Create an efficient communications experience for public safety personnel in agencies and jurisdictions across the state during natural disasters.

·         Enhance network coverage in rural areas.

·         Drive infrastructure investments and create jobs across the state.

·         Usher in a new wave of innovation that first responders can depend on. This will create an ever-evolving set of life-saving tools for public safety, including public safety apps, specialized devices and Internet of Things technologies.   

For more information on FirstNet, please visit FirstNet.gov/mediakit and att.com/FirstResponderNews. For more about the value FirstNet will bring to public safety, please visit FirstNet.com