COVINGTON -- The Covington-Newton County 911 Communications Center is the first 911 center in the state to successfully achieve reaccreditation under the new Gold Standard Assessment by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.
The 911 Center was first accredited by CALEA, an international agency, in 2006. Reaccreditation comes around every three years, and this year, 911 Center Director Mike Smith voluntarily subjected the center to the new, more difficult, Gold Standard Assessment.
Typically, accreditation involves inspection of files to make sure practices are being implemented, but with the Gold Standard, employees at the center were observed for 12 hours a day for three days to make sure they were meeting requirements. Smith said the assessment team sat with dispatchers to observe their work and asked them questions about procedures, inspected equipment, even going to transmitter sites to view emergency generators, and in general, made a much more in-depth assessment of the 911 Center.
"I think we've got probably one of the most professional and proficient 911 centers around. We've got the highest level of service we can provide to the community and that's been verified by an outside, independent source," Smith said.
"I hope that gives the community confidence we've got one of the best in the country," he added.
The 911 Center is the first in Georgia and only the second in the world to be assessed under the new standards. In Georgia, only two other public safety agencies have requested and received reaccreditation under the Gold Standard Assessment: the LaGrange Police Department and the Athens/Clark County Police Department. Communications centers are assessed differently than police departments.
There are only 66 communications centers in the world that have attained basic accreditation through CALEA, and in Georgia, there are more than 100 communications centers, Smith said, which demonstrates the difficulty of the process.
"In order to be successful to get the basic accreditation you've go to make this a lifestyle and maintain it every day of the year for three years," he said.
Smith said he had full confidence in the 32 employees at the center, which is why he submitted the center to the more rigorous process.
"Our people are our strongest asset, and we wanted the assessors to spend more time with them so they could see for themselves how professional and effective they are and how the CALEA process has made our center better. We welcomed the higher level of scrutiny," Smith said.
The city of Covington is one of only six cities in the nation to have four accredited departments; 911 Center, public works, Covington Police Department and Covington Fire Department.