By Ron Leir
The Kearny Police Department’s enhanced 911 emergency communications system at its South Kearny Precinct that Super Storm Sandy wiped out two and a half years ago has finally been finally restored.
“Tuesday, Jan. 13, we went live,” said Police Sgt. John Manley, deputy coordinator for the Kearny Office of Emergency Management. “It’s been a long haul.”
As part of the recovery effort, the town ended up ordering several trailer units that it had installed inside the combined police/ fire facility to provide separate offices for firefighters and police and space for fire rigs.
Then the town had to shell out $240,000 just to replace the 911 system which took months to set up, with the vendor Carousel Industries of Bensalem, Pa., working with Verizon to get everything humming. Kearny has applied for reimbursement through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The last step was the KPD’s training superior officers in using the new system so that a rotating schedule of officers assigned to the precinct for 911 duty could be set up.
From the precinct, the officers can handle not just 911 calls – medical calls are routed from a 911 center at the Jersey City Medical Center and nonmedical calls from the Hudson County Sheriff’s Office in Jersey City – but also regular police calls.
For emergency situations, the system allows the officer handling the calls to link up with the appropriate outside law enforcement or local and/ or regional civilian agency to respond.
All 911 calls are logged and can be played back as needed. The system is also outfitted with TTY capability, a telecommunications device for the hearing impaired.
The system also is equipped with a video mapping capability that can help an officer trace the location of a caller, should that communication be interrupted or abruptly ended.
“We have 98 surveillance cameras positioned around South Kearny so that area, (which is largely industrial), can be monitored from our 911 center,” Manley said. “And because the town arranged to run fiber optic cable through the area, we’ll be getting a better picture quality.”
With the trailer units situated three feet above ground level, the hope is that elevation will protect officers and the electronic gear against an incursion of flood water. And KPD has backup phone lines for its 911 and regular police communications, both in South Kearny and uptown at KPD headquarters on Laurel Ave.
However, if another monster storm hits the area and the precinct is inundated again, there is a fail-safe system in place, Manley said.
Part of the 911 system features new technology – a portable unit designed so that it can be disconnected from its precinct-based housing and re-attached to a laptop computer for operation on a mobile basis and continue to provide a 911 capability.
“So if we get another surge from the (Passaic) river that’s going to flood us out of South Kearny, we will pull out the portable unit and our vehicles – as well as the Fire Department rigs – to redeploy uptown,” Manley said.
Other safeguards being taken by the town in case of heavy flooding include readying the installation of backup and/or new generators at various pumping stations and other critical local facilities, he said.
For example, Manley said, the town will be arranging for the placement of a backup generator at Schuyler Elementary School in the event that the school is put into service as an emergency shelter. Neglia Engineering, the town’s consulting engineers, is drafting specifications for that project, he added.