Communications Centers

dispatchThe core mission of public safety Communications Centers, both public safety answering points and dispatch centers, is to serve as the community’s point of access to public safety resources and as a resource to first responders.  They provide communications links, information, and additional resources. 

Communications centers interact with citizens via 9-1-1, and with the first responders via dispatch. They are a key element in the emergency response systems and often are the “first” first responders as a result of receiving the emergency 9-1-1 call.

  1. 9-1-1 – The system involves interaction with citizens who make the call, external service providers who deliver the call, and 9-1-1 telecommunicators who receive and process the call. The ever-increasing complexity of processing calls via a computer now evolves to the next level, Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1). NG9-1-1 processing now involves nontraditional communications (i.e., text messages, video, chat, etc.).
  2. Dispatch – The ability to process the incoming calls for service, classify the call, and determine the appropriate dispatch response involves a very sophisticated set of systems to work. Integrating the phone system with a computer-aided dispatch system is critical and now other technologies are proving to be a “must haves,” such as on-line mapping, automated vehicle location (AVL) and automated emergency medical dispatch (EMD).

Communications Center staff need targeted assistance and training that addresses their important role and specific needs.  SEARCH staff possess experience as practitioners across all of the emergency communications disciplines, and have managed public safety communications centers and worked in the 9-1-1 field.  They have the knowledge and expert skills to assist with the various operational or technical issues that can face Communications Center staff. 

Additional Resources

Download and read our Issue Brief on Disaster Planning and Recovery: 9-1-1 Center Survivability

Download and read our Issue Brief on Building a Regional Communications Plan

Visit our Public Safety & Emergency Communications Training page to find instructor-led and self-paced training on topics like these, which are available through the Office of Emergency Communications (OEC) Interoperable Communications Technical Assistance Program (ICTAP), but which SEARCH can also provide by direct contract or possibly other grant sources if the state has committed its ICTAP funds to other offerings—

  • Public Safety Communications Centers’ Continuity of Operations Plan: PSCC policies and directives should address emergency continuity of operations planning (COOP) in preparation for all hazards events and other circumstances that affect their facility. COOP ensures continuity of essential functions across a wide range of emergencies and events. PSCCs have a responsibility to provide uninterrupted essential services to the public, regardless of circumstances. The length of this workshop can be tailored to meet the site’s requirements.
  • Operational Communications Assessments: All operable and interoperable communications must be efficient and intuitive in order to be effective tools for public safety responders and communications specialists. Operational communications assessments, therefore, ensure that proposed or in-place technologies, plans, and procedures enhance and support operations. SEARCH staff can assess emerging tools in the specific environment of the requesting State/Territory, tribal, regional, or urban area agency to measure the likelihood of a responder/dispatcher’s success in using those tools in an event or incident. 
  • Planning for Backup Communications Options:  Public safety communications systems are critical infrastructure, heavily relied on during day-to-day operations and with increased demand during large-scale incidents or events. The potential for partial or complete failure or insufficient coverage or capacity during large-scale events needs to be addressed through a thorough pre-planning process. This workshop offers assistance with planning for backup communications solutions. Following the advance collection of the necessary data on infrastructure and available resources, SEARCH will provide an on-site workshop that is tailored to meet the unique needs and environment of the requesting jurisdiction or agency. 
  • Public Safety Communications Center Operations Workshop:  This workshop is designed to help Public Safety Communications Center (PSCC), both PSAPs and dispatch centers, supervisors and managers assess operations and readiness as they relate to call processing and interoperable communications capabilities. It also will involve and benefit law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services (EMS), and emergency management agencies using PSCC services. The workshop focuses on PSCC procedures to effectively process and disseminate information for public safety response and the capability to effectively establish interoperable or response-level emergency communications with other jurisdictions, disciplines, and agencies. 
Karen Lissy

Ms. Karen Lissy is a Justice Information Services Specialist for the Law and Policy Program of SEARCH, The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics. In this position, she provides assistance to state and local justice and public safety agencies to collect, curate, and use National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) data and computerized criminal history record (CCH/CHRI) information for policy analysis and development.

She also guides justice and related organizations in how to craft and implement laws, policies, practices, and technology applications to effectively collect and use CCH and related justice/public safety data; address legal, policy, and regulatory issues associated with CCH data; better manage and operate criminal justice information and identification systems; and develop security and privacy policies that protect justice information sharing systems.

Ms. Lissy has nearly two decades of research and data analysis experience, having led projects and tasks in support of two agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Programs (the Bureau of Justice Statistics and National Institute of Justice), as well as the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, and multiple foundations, including Ford, Annie E. Casey, and Hewlett. Prior to joining SEARCH in October 2020, Ms. Lissy served as a Social Science Researcher at RTI International, as a regional Crime Analyst for the Redmond (WA) Police Department, and as Director of a research program with the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. Beginning in 2012, Ms. Lissy’s work has focused on improving data in law enforcement to answer policy questions and improve community/police relations.

Ms. Lissy earned a Bachelor’s degree in Public Policy from Duke University, and a Master’s in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Michael Mackay

Mr. Michael Mackay is an Information Sharing Developer for SEARCH, The National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics. As part of the Software and Data Engineering Program (SDEP) team, he plans, develops, implements, and deploys information sharing systems on behalf of SEARCH clients in local, state, tribal, and Federal government settings. He also provides programming, configuration, and testing assistance, and consults on implementation architecture and design with clients. 

Mr. Mackay supports justice, public safety, and homeland security information sharing nationwide through SDEP services that include software architecture and systems design, application development, deployment and support, data management services, and direct technical assistance and training. These services offer capabilities that include federated query, authentication access/control, subscription/notification, process/workflow automation, data analysis, and more. 

Prior to joining SEARCH in 2021, Mr. Mackay worked as a Software Engineering Intern for TDM Business Toole Suite, where he provided software development support using Java frameworks, implemented relational database models using MySQL, and designed GUI components using NetBeans. 

Mr. Mackay will work in an Agile development environment, a methodology that SEARCH embraces that focuses on incremental development and delivery, collaboration in a team approach, and rapid and flexible response to change throughout the development cycle. 

Mr. Mackay earned a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science and Applied Mathematics and Statistics from Stony Brook University, New York.