ND 911 center will be built to withstand EF4 tornado winds
Officials approved the new building due to the need for a 911 communications center that can withstand man-made and natural disasters
By Blair Emerson
The Bismarck Tribune, N.D.
BISMARK, N.D. — A 911 dispatch center being built in north Bismarck will have the ability to withstand EF4 tornado winds.
A groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday for the estimated $6.3 million project that has been five years in the making. The 20,000-square-foot, two-story center will be built onto Dakota Carrier Network's facility at 4202 Coleman St.
Central Dakota Communications, a partnership involving Bismarck, Mandan and Burleigh County, handles 911 calls, nonemergency calls, fire and security alarms, and many other services residents use to seek public safety assistance.
It coordinates the dispatching of five law enforcement agencies, eight fire departments, six ambulance agencies and several other governmental services.
CenCom dispatchers have been housed at the former National Weather Service station at the Bismarck Municipal Airport since 2003. But growth in calls and increased personnel has resulted in the need for additional space.
The move to the new center, which is expected to be completed next fall, also is in response to the need for a building that can withstand man-made and natural disasters.
Dakota Carrier Network, a communications network company, has facilities in Bismarck and Fargo that are constructed in a "hardened manner," according to CEO Seth Arndorfer. This means they can withstand EF4 tornado winds up to 200 mph.
"We're actually housing most of the critical communications, whether it's cellular or whether it's State Radio or for CenCom's 911 traffic. All of this critical traffic, including internet, is reliant on this building being up and operational," Arndorfer said.
Dakota Carrier Network staff also are protected "inside that hardened core," he said.
CenCom Director Mike Dannenfelzer said that appealed to him when he was searching for a long-term solution for more space, as dispatchers need to be protected during major incidents such as the 2011 flooding in Bismarck, when the CenCom center was turned into a hub for emergency responders.
"The employees who will work in this facility are the unseen first responders," he said.
Dakota Carrier Network will lease the space to CenCom for $625,000 per year, according to Dannenfelzer.
About half of the funding for the center comes from a voter-approved increase in the 911 fee. In June 2018, Burleigh County voters approved a ballot measure to increase the fee from $1 to $1.50 per month for each telephone line. The other half will be a split between Bismarck's and Burleigh County's general funds.
New equipment also will be purchased for the center, Dannenfelzer said. The construction of the facility occurs at a time when a "refresh," or a replacement of computers and hardware that run the 911 system, is needed. Typically, this is done every five to seven years.
"We're delaying that until next year," when construction is completed at the center he said.
Dispatchers will be trained on the new equipment to allow for a "virtually seamless" transition from the old center to the new one, according to Dannenfelzer.
©2019 The Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, N.D.)