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Counties work together for emergency communications

Emergency Services in Douglas and Bayfield plan to team up like never before.

“Our relationship with Douglas County is good and we’ve backed each other up in the past,” said Bayfield County Sheriff Paul Susienka. “But we have never shared equipment.”

The two counties are looking to share a 911 system — hardware and software.

The system is called geo-diverse and provides more reliable 911 services. Instead of each county taking all their emergency calls and data on one machine or system, the communication centers will split data and calls by putting the rest on another machine in both counties’ call centers.

“In the event of a system failure at one station, the other station could process the emergency calls,” Susienka said. “Plus there will be more diverse routes of travel for the 911 calls.”

Dispatching wouldn’t change; calls received in a particular county will go to that county’s station.

“All 911 calls in Douglas County will continue to come here and all calls in Bayfield County will continue to go there,” said Keith Kesler, director of Douglas County emergency management, communications and general services. “This is just in case an emergency happens or one of the stations gets swamped. This system doesn’t really change anything; it is just really beneficial for us when it comes to backup and dispatch.”

The cooperation provides redundancy during an emergency. Kesler said this system could help either station significantly.

“If we have one of our machines in Bayfield (and vice versa) then they could answer our calls,” Kesler said. In the event of a fire, flood or other problem at one of the call centers, the other would be able to pick up the slack, he said.

If either county wants to back out of the partnership then they are welcomed to do that, but the feeling must be mutual.

“We have a termination clause and can back out of this partnership if it is a mutual agreement.” Kesler said. “We don’t see a need for it though. I don’t think it will happen.”

The partnership is not a done deal yet, but county officials are looking to get approval within the next two weeks.

“We are hoping this partnership and concept will get approved within the next couple of weeks, so we can get started immediately,” Susienka said. “We are also hoping other (Wisconsin) counties will hop on board with us in the future, so we could possibly share the workload.”