Ames Police Department introduces new space for emergency situations, everyday law enforcement

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Blake Lanser/Iowa State Daily

The new Ames Police Emergency Center is now up and operating with TVs, computers and other equipment used for news briefs, updates, and personal use for investigation.

Stephen Snyder

Ames Police Department has introduced a new Emergency Operations Center to increase efficiency during both emergency situations and everyday law enforcement.

The newly created Emergency Operations Center, located in City Hall, establishes a common meeting space for both patrol officers and the heads of public organizations. The space will be used for common law enforcement situations, but the most notable use of the space will be for emergency situation management.

“It used to be that you would only have your office laptop available to bring down to the old Emergency Operations Center due to a lack of space and a lack of monitors,” said Commander Geoff Huff of Ames Police. “But with the upgrades to technology in the new Emergency Operations Center, different groups working on different aspects of a single emergency situation will have screens and monitors dedicated specifically to their concerns.”

The most frequent type of emergency situation in Ames, as residents know, is the possibility of flooding, Huff said. 

“Imagine that we have a 12 hour warning of a flood situation. With the advanced knowledge, we can call in the proper officials and begin planning relief and evacuations before the need to do so is even evident. That way, we are only worrying about the water as opposed to rescuing people trapped by the flooding,” Huff said.

The Emergency Operations Center will not only have an impact during emergency situations, as the space can be used for everyday law enforcement situations.

“The Emergency Operations Center is essentially built around the patrol officers,” said Patrol Commander Jason Tuttle.

The Emergency Operations Center provides more room for officers to conduct interviews, hold shift briefings and hold officer training events.

“The security of the facility has been enhanced, from a new booking area to security cameras all over City Hall,” Tuttle said. “The building has become much more easy to navigate.”

The renovations were not limited to the Emergency Operations Center. The station also renovated their communications center, established a new 911 system and relocated evidence lockers.

The new communications center provides touch screens for dispatchers making information easier to organize and manage.

“Information is more easily and quickly relayed to patrol officers, making our process and responses more efficient,” Tuttle said.

Updates to the 911 system, though hardly noticeable by the public, came at a good time, Huff said.

“The old system was at the point where we were beginning to have concerns that there might be a failure,” Huff said. “In such a situation, there are backup systems in place and the calls and responses would not have been affected, but the new system makes us much more confident.”

Looking to the future, the new 911 system also provides some updates on communicating with the police in emergency situations.

“Though it is not available for use currently, our system has the ability to receive text messages the same as we receive emergency calls,” Huff said. “The reason the system is not functioning yet is because the individual service providers have not made the technology available in the cell phone plans.”

Although many may see this update to the 911 system as a luxury, Huff said this system would be a vast improvement over their current system for assisting the hearing impaired in 911 calls.

The total cost of all updates and changes is $1.1 million, but $600,000 of that money came from the federal government as opposed to Ames taxpayers.