Killeen: Backup emergency communications center poised for upgrades

KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) The Killeen City Council will consider an agreement Tuesday to improve the dependability of the emergency communications system in Bell County.

The backup communications center at the Killeen Police Department hasn't been updated to reflect Bell County's growth. (Photo by Chelsea Edwards)

Bell County 911 calls go straight to a communications center in Belton.

However, if there's an emergency at the call center, the backup site at Killeen police headquarters is activated.

The emergency communications center for Bell County requires a backup point in case of fire, natural disaster or an equipment malfunction.

Although the Killeen Police Department facility has served as a backup for years, it hasn’t been updated to deal with the growth of the county.

Currently, it's only equipped for a four-person team.

Tuesday, emergency officials will present a memorandum of understanding to the City of Killeen that would expand the backup site to a 15-person operation.

The plan is to prevent any disruption of emergency services, even if a catastrophe hits the main center.

"This was built to withstand an F3 tornado. It could be a stronger tornado that takes it out," says Emergency Management Coordinator Michael Harmon, referring to the main communications center.

"It's a backup capability that we need to have since we're the only public safety answering point in the county."

Bell County will pay for the improvements of the backup call center which could cost a couple hundred thousand dollars.

New equipment will be paid for through the 911 fee tacked on to residents' cell phone bills and will include a new way to request emergency services.

"Now, we're communicating by computer to both the officers in the field as well as we will soon be instituting 'text to 9-1-1' where the general public will be able to contact 911 by text message," Harmon said.

911 texting should be available by next spring in Bell County.

The City of Killeen will have final approval on plans before work begins.

If the council approves the agreement, the backup center could be updated by October 2019.