(November 15, 2003) -- As LBReport.com reported first among LB media last week, the city's new Emergency Communications and Operations Center (ECOC) is now handling LB 911 calls.
Although the ECOC's official ribbon-cutting comes later this month, LBReport.com and other media outlets were given a tour of the new facility on November 12. We brought our digital camera so you could see what we did.
Simply put: the building itself -- and the equipment it houses -- are both incredibly impressive.
"Long Beach now has the most technologically advanced ECOC of any city in the country," 5th district Councilwoman Jackie Kell told reporters. She credited the outcome in part to residents who objected to City Hall's initial plan to put the 42,000 sq. ft. building, its radio tower and adjoining parking lot in part of Stearns Park.
In late 1999, Stearns Park area homeowner Traci Wilson-Kleekamp, backed by Los Altos Neighborhood Ass'n South founder and realtor Joe Sopo and park advocate Ann Cantrell, succeeded in pressing then-4th district Councilman Del Roosevelt to urge a different site (and the Council agreed). The change in plans gave city officials an opportunity to upgrade the ECOC's planned capabilities even further...which Councilwoman Kell told reporters had produced a better result than originally planned.
The ECOC, now sited near the southeast corner of Spring St. and Redondo Ave. in the 5th district, has dual roles. In emergencies, it will become the city's nerve center...and right now, it's home to LB's new state of the art police and fire 911 dispatch centers.
LB's previous police and fire dispatch centers -- located miles away from each other -- were antiquated...and resourceful engineers somehow kept them functioning until late October 2003. Police 911 calls were handled from a windowless City Hall basement that included periodic water leaks onto electrical equipment. LB fire dispatch on Henderson Ave. had some equipment powered by vacuum tubes and some data stored on 3 x 5 cards.
Much of the ECOC's sophistication is not immediately apparent. Details below were provided during the media tour and in a LB Technology Services fact sheet.
During emergencies, this room will become the ECOC's nerve center. Each desk has its own computer terminal and telephone. Instead of incessant ringing telephones, the phones use flashing lights. Noise and bedlam don't promote clear thinking. Instead of deafening emergency audio, the room is bathed in invisible infrared light carrying audio ranging from CNN to police and fire radio that personnel can select on wireless headphones.
Conference rooms surround the central area for quick access. Conference room windows are tilted to deaden sound in the central area.
Personnel elsewhere in the building can stay at their posts and still receive briefings; the ECOC nerve center is equipped with a TV camera and mike to send video and audio throughout the building.
A LB Technology Dept. fact sheet says the ECOC's emergency systems are kept in a "ready state" at all times so they can be made fully functional quickly at the onset of a disaster or other major incident.
The ECOC can receive direct feeds of police helicopter video...and can send camera and communication feeds to Charter cable and media news vans so they can send out emergency broadcasts. And the building includes numerous security features that we needn't describe here.
The ECOC is earthquake ready (the Newport/Inglewood fault zone runs through part of LB). The ECOC doesn't sit on the ground. It rests on sophisticated seismic base isolators. This shot was taken from below the building itself...showing the base isolators on which the building rests.
The base isolators are more complex than they appear. In a major earthquake, we're told they are designed so the building above can remain relatively stable despite ground movement below.
There are racks upon racks of electronic equipment. The ECOC includes a Local Area Network (LAN)/Wide Area Network (WAN), a design that enables "isolated" network traffic to enhance security and reliability. The ECOC network contains 20 miles of technology infrastructure cabling in the building.
This empty space currently accommodates elected officials and nosey reporters...but it was designed to handle future technological upgrades.
The ECOC was designed with several levels of redundancy and backups. This is one of two 600 kilowatt diesel generators.
Yes, the generators meet AQMD standards. Yes, the ECOC has its own underground fuel tanks for the generators. The two generators can produce a total of 1.2 megawatts to run the ECOC for days.
The generators also sit on earthquake buffering isolators.
This is a bigger version of something readers may recall from the "energy crisis": an Uninterruptable Power Supply, in effect an instantaneously operable big battery...and this is a really big computer controlled battery.
If the ECOC loses power even momentarily, the battery backup kicks in...and preserves critical systems. If both backup diesel generators fail, the batteries can run the entire building for hours.
And if those backup systems fail, the ECOC can also run on external generators (and yes they have a plan if that becomes necessary.)
An adjoining communications tower roughly 100 feet high is filled with antennas.
LB's microwave radio system was also expanded and includes dual paths: one from the ECOC to Signal Hill and another from the nearby Water Treatment Plant to Reservoir Hill (above PCH just east of Redondo).
Verizon upgraded its communications network to the ECOC, using fiber optic architecture with dual paths of the ECOC.
LB upgraded its existing computer aided dispatch (CAD) system to provide graphic user interface with comprehensive mapping for 911 phone calls and reporting incidents.
This is one corner of LBPD's 911 dispatch center. Call takers can view caller details, including a map of the caller location. With a mouse click, computers can zoom in on an area...and even display building footprints.
Councilwoman Kell looks on as the calls come in.
The ECOC has a new 911 system with dual 911 switches with automatic call distribution to call takers. When cell phones permit, it has the capability of directly receiving some 911 calls from wireless phones...bypassing the need for CHP to transfer wireless calls to LB.
This is LBFD's fire dispatch center.
Workstations are ergonomically designed, including adjustable work surface heights to let personnel sit or stand, minimizing cumulative trauma disorders.