Shared call center causes confusion for Okla. agencies

Cherokee County's 911 center staff are employed by 3 individual agencies but housed in the same space


By Keri Thornton
Tahlequah Daily Press, Okla.

TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Confusion sometimes arises about Cherokee County's 911 system, because its operations center houses three agencies for receiving all emergency calls.

CC911 provides dispatchers/call takers who are employed by their own individual agencies, except for the Tahlequah Police Department. The center also handles all fire and EMS in both city and county, to dispatch the appropriate responders.

Dispatchers train at the Cherokee County 911 center in a 2018 file photo.
Dispatchers train at the Cherokee County 911 center in a 2018 file photo. (Photo/Cherokee County 911)

Emergency calls are routed into CC911, where Northeastern Health System EMS, Cherokee Nation EMS, and the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office dispatch are located.

Calls to 911 made within the city limits are routed to the 911 center and then transferred to TPD, just as long as EMS is not needed.

Cherokee County 911 Coordinator Alicia Felts explained the same goes for 911 calls made out in the county.

"It comes to our center, they will dispatch the sheriff's office. Once again, if they need medical assistance, we'll also send an ambulance and first responders if you're in the county," said Felts.

Felts said in the event one person is calling to report a fire or has another reason to need a fire department, CC911 will page each individual group of firefighters.

"It depends on where you're located as to which fire department we'll page out," she said.

Dispatchers tightly control the calls so those on the phone can get the services they need.

Felts said there are roughly between 25 to 30 employees at CC911. She said a backup center is stationed in the city in the event power is cut or lost to the 911 center.

"If our center were to go down by, let's say a natural disaster, we would route all of our 911 lines to Emergency Management. We actually have a backup center down there and we can start dispatching and taking 911 calls out of that center," she said.

Felts oversees the daily operations of CC911 and takes care of the radio and telephone systems, as well as software updates.

"My job is to make sure that the [CC911] runs smoothly," she said.

The 911 Trust Authority oversees the finances and meets every other month. Felts isn't a member, but she does play a key role with the nine-member board.

"I'm the coordinator to give them updates and to keep them up to date on everything that's going on — monthly budgets and things like that," said Felts.

While the board doesn't handle personnel matters, it does deal with raises and salaries for Felts.

The board includes members of the CCSO and both EMS agencies, as well as representatives from Cherokee Nation and Northeastern Health System.

Sheriff Jason Chennault has served on the board since 2005. Tahlequah Fire Assistant Chief Mark Whittmore is the board member who represents all the fire departments in Cherokee County.

" Hulbert has a seat, [ Northeastern State University] has a seat, Tahlequah PD has a seat, and Cherokee County fire departments have a seat," said Chennault.

Lake Region Electric Cooperative and the county government also have seats.

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(c)2021 the Tahlequah Daily Press (Tahlequah, Okla.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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