In 1999 the City of Los Angeles (City) set out to construct 2 new 911 Dispatch Centers to better meet the ever-evolving needs of the citizens of the City. The previous dispatch center was built in 1984 under City Hall East and was in serious need of an upgrade to address employee concerns and to ensure that vital emergency dispatch services remained available in the event of a disaster.
The original dispatch center was comprised of 430 staff members handling as many as 2.6 million calls in a given year. Operators at the center were overworked due to a high rookie employee dropout rate and an abundance of employment vacancies that went unfilled, resulting in the staff working over-time and adding more pressure to their already stressful job. With a population expected to grow by as much as 40% in a 20 year period, the City knew they had to better meet the needs of its dispatch workers in order to reduce the stress on existing employees and to attract potential employees to fill the high number of vacancies.
Given that Los Angeles is in one of the most earthquake prone regions of the US, the ability to remain operational in the event of a major quake is pivotal. While the original center was built in compliance with all applicable seismic codes, there was still a chance it could sustain enough damage to render it uninhabitable, and thus unusable. If the center is taken offline and injured citizens cannot contact anyone for help the number of lives lost and property damage sustained in a disaster are likely to rise.
The solution to these issues was to create a new Emergency Command, Control, and Communications System (ECCCS) designed to run on a Dual Center System Architecture (DCSA), meaning 2 centers would be constructed and used concurrently. The new centers, located in downtown Los Angeles (Metropolitan Communications Dispatch Center) and in the San Fernando Valley (Valley Communications Dispatch Center), are designed to withstand a major disaster through the use of high damping rubber bearings. The bearings separate the building from the ground and allow for up to 25 inches of movement in any direction. The centers are also equipped with enough generators, water supplies, wastewater tanks, and dried food to sustain operations for as much as 72 hours. The centers are approximately 15 miles apart from one another, greatly reducing the risk that a disaster would affect both. Additionally, the new centers feature bullet-proof windows on the first floor and an advanced security system to protect its users. The facility is also designed with plenty of amenities to help the increased number of employees (the new centers are each capable of housing more than double the amount of operators as the old center). 2 quiet rooms were built that allow over-stressed employees to relax and unwind in a peaceful setting. There is also an exercise room and a fully equipped kitchen for use by the employees. Also inside the facilities is a counseling room where employees can get help immediately. By implementing these features the City is showing that it is putting the well-being of its workers as a priority. Both centers were opened in 2013.
EUR’s president and founder, Mr. Eloy U. Retamal, S.E., served as the lead structural engineer for the design and construction of this project.