By Lorna Luniewski ~ In an effort to improve communication between all Town departments and divisions, Brookhaven Town unveiled a new Communications Center at a press conference, on Feb. 27. Located on the third floor of Town Hall, the state-of-the-art Center will allow the Town to communicate more readily with village, county and state partners. In addition, it will be the monitoring base for the Town’s surveillance cameras and drone technology, to ensure the security of Town properties and equipment.
The Communication Center was part of a larger project at Town Hall that included emergency electrical power and an independent HVAC System to the Communication Center, Call Center, Emergency Operation Center and Fire Prevention Offices, to allow continuous activity during any incidents.
The cost of the Center, which was funded through a FEMA grant, was $961,000, of which the Town paid $120,125.
Supervisor Edward Romaine kicked off the press conference by saying the Center was a longtime coming. Citing the more than 350 cameras throughout the Town, Romaine said the goal is to protect the parks, centers and buildings, and to keep residents safe. They give “a sense of protection” and let people know if “they mess with Town property” there are “eyes on you.” He said the Center will become critical in times of emergencies, giving them the opportunity to communicate with their partners at the village, county and state level, which is “absolutely critical” during emergencies.
Councilwoman Jane Bonner said the need for the Center was brought to light after Superstorm Sandy and the communication issues all of Long Island struggled with. Stating that residents spend their hard earned tax dollars to elect representatives who share their values, to maintain and beautify marinas, parks and other Town facilities, the use of cameras, which can be accessed by multiple levels of government, only makes the community safer to live, which is “crucially and vitally important to everybody’s quality of life in Brookhaven.”
Next to speak was Public Safety Commissioner John Meehan, who thanked the many departments and staff whose vision, commitment and hard work over the past 3-1/2 years helped make the Center possible, taking the Town to the next step in coordinating its resources and keeping an eye on its investments. In addition, he said the current cameras will grow in number and will allow the Town to be more proactive by highlighting locations that have had problems in the past. New hand-held and portable radios in Town vehicles allow personnel in the field to communicate with each other and other Town departments, as well as with other village and county departments. And, with all Town vehicles now containing GPS tracking, dispatchers can direct personnel to where they are needed more quickly and more efficiently. The Center is meant to focus on communication, coordination and observation, he said.
Chief Fire Marshal Christopher Mehrman explained how the “Hiperwall” of cameras works (comprised of 12 large size high-resolution video screens, with built-in high-tech processors met to operate 24/7 and provide a wide variety of image sizes), and how dispatchers can use that information to send police if needed. He also discussed the two drones that the Town now has, and how they can be used to take pictures before and after a storm, allowing the Town to document storm damage and apply for funding if needed. For instance, he noted, the drones can do a flyover of Fire Island after a storm to access damage in real time. In addition, the drones can be used in other emergencies such as fires, etc.
According to a press release, the new Communications Center will be staffed by dispatchers who will handle calls for the Town’s Department of Public Safety, which includes Code Enforcement, Bay Constables, Fire Marshals and Safety/Emergency Management. They will also handle the monitoring status of personnel and vehicles in the field assigned to the Department of Public Safety. During storms and other emergencies, the Communication Center will be staffed by additional dispatchers and other personnel as needed, integrated as part of the Town’s Emergency Operation Center. They will track storm conditions using strategically placed cameras and weather stations on the Town of Brookhaven’s north and south shores while monitoring local news and weather outlets to feed the latest information to the Emergency Operations Center.
“The Town’s Public Safety and Emergency Management personnel work very hard to keep residents and property safe 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said Supervisor Romaine in a press release. “This new Communication Center will allow them to be better prepared for whatever incident occurs and to respond to it in a timely manner that could save lives.”
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