ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – Earlier this year, the Abilene Police Department (APD) Dispatch Center had been newly renovated. But come July, a flood caused by a faulty fire suppression line ruined the center- causing dispatch to have to move into an emergency backup center in the basement of Abilene City Hall.

“Water was coming up through the floors while we were taking 911 calls,” detailed Becky Mackiewicz, APD’s Communications Manager. “Dispatchers were answering calls all while the water was rising up around their feet.”

Abilene Police Department: APD Dispatch Center flood image (Jul. 19, 2022)

After moving in, APD realized its dispatch personnel had outgrown the space entirely. Normally, dispatch has 18 employees taking calls, but the backup center only had space for five to work at a time.

“Our normal center in the station has 18 positions, that we can work from. Our backup center from the basement of city hall only has five positions, so that is not enough to work,” Mackiewicz explained. “Even at our lowest minimum, lowest staffing minimum.”

Soon after, dispatch was also able to utilize the backup center for the Emergency Operations Center (EOC). This space could support 12 more dispatchers, allowing them to continue operations as normal as possible.

“They can each sit at a desk without having to share positions. And they’re able to focus on public safety,” advised Mackiewicz.

The main goal of dispatch went virtually uninterrupted. Although in a new, smaller space, APD said the safety of its residents remained at top priority.

Jerrell Hodges, a dispatch operator, told KTAB/KRBC; “It [our main priority] hasn’t changed at all. I mean were still going to be here to help anyone that needs it. No matter what happens.”

Mackiewicz extended words of praise to the APD operators and said they remained focused throughout these long few months.

“The telecommunicators we have working for the department are resilient,” Mackiewicz commended. “They understand that the needs of the city come before our needs.”

Back at the dispatch center, repairs are underway which include replacing drywall, flooring and furnishings. These repairs are expected to be complete in the next few weeks, allowing dispatch to move back in early December.