B.C. – Before COMTEC
For years, the idea of combining services was one that was rarely ever explored… it was assumed that each department operated better on its own since those individuals were the experts in the field. However, a downed economy resulting in severe budget cuts to local municipalities has resulted in government officials having to take a different look at how entities can work together to become more economical and efficient.
From this mindset, the idea of COMTEC was born.
Visibly, the benefits of COMTEC are obvious. Anyone who comes into the building can see immediately that moving Macomb County’s Sheriff’s dispatch, Department of Roads, Emergency Management and Information Technology could only be beneficial.
- A 20-by-50-foot video wall complete with 54 70-inch individual monitors/LEDs and over 50 different display variations. Inputs on the video wall include weather and GIS mapping, TV/cable stations, Road Department cameras, Michigan Department of Transportation cameras, siren alerting system, computer displays and video conferencing. In the future, the center will also be able to accept and integrate with other systems and live feeds from mobile command vehicles, private businesses and schools.
- Eight traffic monitoring positions
- Fourteen current dispatch workstations, with the capacity to add an additional 11
- New E 9-1-1 phone system
- New MCC7500 dispatch radio consoles
- New computer-aided dispatch and records management system available in late 2014
- 24 emergency operation center work stations
- Signal lab and traffic light monitoring system
- State-of-the-art IT data center
- Two emergency generators
- Two uninterruptable power supply systems
- Conference room and training center
“COMTEC has broken down the silos between each department,” said IT Director Sandy Jurek. “We couldn’t have done these things as quickly or efficiently if we weren’t joined together under one roof.”
I’m at COMTEC to attend a meeting where we are discussing the seemingly impossible task of trying to coordinate how we can better communicate traffic hindrances throughout Macomb County to residents and visitors so they can get a pulse on how to best plan their commutes and hopefully curb frustration. As the meeting ends, we start to hear from coworkers in downtown Mount Clemens that the tornado sirens are ringing. Information begins to pour into Emergency Management and we learn that two funnel clouds have formed in northern Macomb County. Workers quickly turn the video wall screens to local news stations while technicians switch the angle of the northernmost Macomb County camera on 23 Mile Road to monitor the situation. All this is happening, while, in the backdrop, volunteers are still answering calls for a hotline set up specifically to deal with residents’ concerns about the flood damage that occurred on Aug. 11.
There is a sense of urgency that flows through the center, yet a quiet confidence that, with all of COMTEC’s abilities, all of the appropriate information will get out to the public.
The future of COMTEC
So what exactly is planned for the future of COMTEC?
For one, getting all the Macomb County Sheriff’s Office dispatch into the center is a goal for everyone, as it will finally complete the entire transition of combining that department with IT, Emergency Management and the Department of Roads.
Emergency Management Director Victoria Wolber said on any given day the center is being used for everything from county operations to training exercises to private business meetings. Outreach to potential other collaborators is ongoing.
This fall, for example, what has been dubbed a “White Tornado” exercise, where a Macomb County Sheriff’s helicopter will ride overhead 16 Mile Road, will be taking place. The cameras that are connected to COMTEC through the various intersections along the route will follow the helicopter, showing COMTEC’s ability to track a natural disaster.
On Sept. 9, COMTEC is featured as one of the tour sites for Intelligent Transport Systems 21st World Congress conference. This conference, which is being held in Detroit, typically has over 10,000 attendees.
“COMTEC integrates Emergency Management, public safety, the Department of Roads as well as IT services under one roof,” said Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel. “This one-of-a-kind, state-of-the-art facility is a model of intergovernmental cooperation and this vision is now a reality.”
Sarah Cormier works for the Macomb County Executive Office, often writing about interesting activities taking place in Macomb County.