New 911/811 emergency communications center opens in Roanoke

Staff and services are still moving into the new building

ROANOKE, Va. – Dispatchers in the Star City now have a new place to call home, which they say will help them better serve the community.

The new building that houses emergency communications in Roanoke is state-of-the-art.

“We’ll be able to actually tell if it’s raining or snowing rather than just waiting for the phone calls to come in,” explained Roanoke E-911 Systems Coordinator John Powers.

But the benefits stretch far beyond what meets the eye.

The 911 call center is four times larger than the current space.

“The service that we have provided, we’re just going to enhance that service,” said Roanoke city 911 manager Sonya Roman.

Now, the center can expand from 12 dispatchers to 18, with room to grow.

“It gives us not only a training area but also an overflow space that if we need it for a large event again, that’s six more positions we could staff,” said Powers.

With the new facility comes new capabilities to respond to emergencies faster.

“People have heard the story about how when you call 911, they may not know where you are, but yet when you call Uber, they know right where you are,” said Powers.

Now, Roanoke city dispatchers have that too, along with enough capacity to keep the entire building running for two weeks without power.

“That technology in itself is priceless when you are operating as a 911 dispatcher, you need to make sure you stay connected with that caller,” said Roman.

What also makes the facility unique is who shares it as Virginia 811 is under the same roof.

“We’re trying to provide the best service that we can, the safest service, the most reliable service,” said Rick Pevarski, with VA811.

A shared goal for two different agencies focused on safety.

So far, only administrative employees have moved into the building.

The goal is to bring in the rest of the staff this month.

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