Emergency Communication Services and Facilities
This page provides information regarding emergency communications and dispatch for local governments in Washington State, including statutes, sample documents, and related resources.
It is part of MRSC's series on Emergency Management and Disaster Planning.
Some of the major agencies, programs and systems governing emergency communications are noted in this section.
Federal Emergency Notification Programs
- Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau (PSHSB) — A bureau under the Federal Communications Commission, the PSHSB makes recommendations to, or acts for the Commission under delegated authority, in all matters pertaining to public safety, homeland security, national security, emergency management and preparedness, disaster management, and ancillary operations
- Emergency Alert System (EAS) — A national public warning system
- Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) — A tool offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, IPAWS provides public safety officials with an effective way to alert and warn the public about serious emergencies using public alerting systems (such as the EAS) from a single interface
- Emergency Managers Weather Information Network (EMWIN) — This tool allows users to obtain weather forecasts, warnings, and other information directly from the National Weather Service (NWS) in almost real time
- Telecommunications System Priority — Offered through the Dept. of Homeland Security, this program authorizes national security and emergency preparedness (NS/EP) organizations to receive priority treatment for vital voice and data circuits or other telecommunications services
- Emergency Management Division of Washington State: Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (2016) — Under Communication Plans, readers can download the state’s Telecommunications Service Priority Plan
E911 is a system that automatically provides the location of callers to 911 dispatchers using a universal emergency telephone number.Enhanced 911 System — Part of Washington State’s Emergency Management Division, the E911 Unit works with counties and communications companies to ensure the E911 system is operational and available statewide
National Emergency Number Association (NENA) — NENA works with 911 professionals nationwide, public policy leaders, emergency services and telecommunications industry partners, like-minded public safety associations, and other stakeholder groups to develop and carry out critical programs and initiatives, to facilitate the creation of an IP-based Next Generation 911 system, and to establish industry leading standards, training, and certifications
- NENA Wide Area/Statewide Emergency Notification Systems (2006) — Contains strategies, points for consideration, and other operational guidance related to Wide Area/Statewide Emergency Notification Systems
- NENA Standards & Other Documents — This webpage contains a variety of documents related to NENA standards, primarily aimed at the industry
Examples of Emergency Notification Systems in Washington
- Douglas County Citizen Emergency Notification System — Allows residents to receive an emergency notification via text over a cell phone
- Grays Harbor County Notification System — Uses a software application that can automatically call or email people who have registered with the Division of Emergency Management.
- Jefferson County Alert NIXLE Text Messaging Service — Allows residents to receive an emergency notification via text over a cell phone
- Pacific County Hyper-reach Emergency Notification System — Hyper-Reach will automatically call all registered cell and landline numbers for community and severe weather alerts, but will only call landlines for general weather alerts.
- Wahkiakum County Alert Notification — Allows for automated emergency warning notifications via landline phones numbers from records provided by phone companies
- SeaTac CodeRED Emergency Notification System — Allows for automated emergency warning notifications via landline phone numbers from a database kept by the city
- Alert Yakima — Allows users to receive emergency notifications by text, call, email, or fax
- Alert Seattle — Allows users to receive emergency notifications by text, call, email, or social media
Dedicated Wireless and Radio Communications
The Public Safety Spectrum is composed of edicated wireless and radio channels available to serve the communications needs of First Responders, such as police, fire fighters and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers. Common frequencies used by first responders are as follows
Regional Examples of Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP)
A public safety answering point (PSAP) is a call center responsible for answering calls to an emergency telephone number for police, firefighting, and ambulance services. A PSAP facility runs 24 hours a day, dispatching emergency services or passing 911 calls on to public or private safety agencies.
The table below lists some of the Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP) in the state. Some are countywide and some serve more than one county. Most have been created through interlocal agreements, as provided for under RCW 39.34, and have separate governing bodies. Some are county services provided through interlocal service agreements. Washington State Public Safety Answering Points Boundaries provides a map of all PSAPs across the state.
|Benton County||Southeast Communications Center (SECOMM) is a PSAP for county residents and first responders||Created under RCW 39.34
|User Agencies: All law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies that serve Benton County|
|Chelan-Douglas County||RiverCom 911 (2002) is a PSAP for county residents and first responders||Created under RCW 39.34
|Serves public safety agencies in Chelan and Douglas counties|
|Clark County||Clark Regional Emergency Service Agency (CRESA; 1976), is a regional public safety agency that provides 9-1-1 dispatch, technology services and emergency management||Organized as a public authority under RCW 35.21.730-759
Ch. 2.74A Clark County Code
|User Agencies: the 7 cities located in Clark County and unincorporated areas of the county|
|Clallam County, and the Clallam and Jefferson County portions of the Olympic National Park||Peninsula Communications (PenCom; 1992), operating within the Port Angeles Police Department, is the 911 center and communications division for Clallam County||Created Under RCW 39.34
|Clients: All law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies, and tribal police departments in Clallam County as well as Forks Hospital District and Olympic National Park Rangers and 6 fire protection districts|
|Cowlitz County||Cowlitz County 911 (1975) is the primary PSAP for police, fire, and emergency medical services in the county||Organized as a public authority under RCW 35.21.730-759
Cowlitz County Ordinance No. 18-014
|Law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies serving Cowlitz County|
|Grant County||Multi Agency Communications Center (1995) is a consolidated county dispatch and 911 service||Created under RCW 39.34
|User Agencies: Law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies serving Grant County, and selected county and state government agencies|
|Grays Harbor||Grays Harbor Communications E-911 (1989) is a countywide emergency communication agency providing enhanced 911 services||Created under RCW 39.34
|User Agencies: Law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies serving Grays Harbor County|
|Island County||Island County Emergency Services Communications Center (I-COM 911) is a countywide emergency communication agency providing enhanced 911 services||Created under RCW 39.34
|User Agencies: All of the law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies that serve Island County|
|King County, east||Eastside Public Safety Communications Agency (EPSCA; 1992) is responsible for developing, owning, operating and managing a geographical subregion of the King Co Regional Emergency Radio Communications System||Created under RCW 39.34;
In 2013 the agency was restructured as a nonprofit pursuant to Interlocal Cooperation Act
|Law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies that serve the cities of Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland Mercer Island, and Issaquah|
|King County, north||North East King County Regional Public Safety Communications Agency (NORCOM; 2008) provides enhanced 911 services||Created under RCW 39.34
Several interlocal agreements available at the website
|Law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies that serve Bellevue, Clyde Hill, Kirkland, Medina, Mercer Island, Bothell, Duvall, Fall City, Northshore, Redmond, Shoreline, Skykomish, Snoqualmie, and Woodinville|
|King County, south||Valley Communications Center (1976) is responsible for developing, owning, operating and managing a geographical subregion of the King Co. Regional Emergency Radio Communications System||Created under RCW 39.34
Interlocal Agreement, Amendments, and Bylaws
|User agencies: Law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies that serve Auburn, Algona, Black Diamond, Burien, Des Moines, Enumclaw, Federal Way, Highline, Kent, Maple Valley, Mountain View, Kangley Palmer, Renton, Skyway, Tukwila, and Vashon Island.|
|Kitsap County||Kitsap 911 (1976) is a PSAP for county residents and first responders||Organized as a public authority under RCW 35.21.730 - 759
Kitsap County Ordinance No. 532-2016
|User Agencies: Law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies that serve in Kitsap County, as well as Kitsap Animal Control, Dept of Corrections (county), United States Navy (Bremerton) and Port Gamble Natural Resource|
|Kittitas County||KITTCOM 911 (1990) is a PSAP for county residents and first responders||Created under RCW 39.34
Several interlocal agreements available at the website
|User Agencies: Law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies that serve in Kittitas County, as well as Central Washington University|
|Jefferson County||JeffCom 911 (2007) provides enhanced 911 dispatch||Created under RCW 39.34||User Agencies: Law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies that serve in Jefferson County|
|Lewis County||Lewis County E911 Communications Division (E911) is a PSAP for residents and first responders in Lewis County||County-initiated agreements with participating agencies||All law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies in Lewis County, including a private ambulance company|
|Mason County||Mason County Emergency Communications (911 MACECOM; 1982), PSAP for residents and first responders in Mason County||Created under RCW 39.34||User Agencies: city, county, tribal and state law enforcement agencies, fire, and emergency medical services agencies that serve in Mason County, plus additional county agencies and courts.|
|Okanogan County||Okanogan Communications Center is a PSAP for residents and first responders in Okanogan County||County-initiated agreements with participating agencies
Interlocal Agreement for Dispatch Services between Omak and Okanogan County
|Law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies in Okanogan county|
|Pacific County||Pacific County Communications (PACCOM) is a PSAP for residents and first responders in Pacific County; located under the Pacific County Sheriff’s Office||Created under RCW 39.34||Law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies in the county, including the Shoalwater Tribal Police, and a private ambulance company|
|Pierce County||South Sound 911 (2011) provides 911 and dispatch, records and technology services, and a regional, interoperable, first-responder radio system||Created under RCW 39.34
List of Interlocal Agreements
|User Agencies: Law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies in Pierce County|
|Skagit County||Skagit 911 (1998; formerly SECOM) is a countywide PSAP||Created under RCW 39.34||User Agencies: Law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies in Skagit County, including tribal agencies|
|Snohomish County||Snohomish County 911 (2018) Created via the merging of SNOCOM (Southwest Snohomish County Communications Agency) and SNOPAC (Snohomish County Police Staff & Auxiliary Service Center) to offer a countywide PSAP||Created under RCW 39.34
|Snohomish County jurisdictions formerly served by SNOPAC and SNOCOM|
|Spokane County||Spokane Regional Emergency Communications Systems (SRECS) is a countywide PSAP||Created under Ch. 39.34 RCW||User Agencies: all law enforcement and fire agencies in Spokane County|
|Thurston County||TCOMM 911 is a countywide PSAP||RCW 39.34
Additional agreements available
|User Agencies: all law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services agencies in Thurston County, plus public works agencies, private emergency services, animal services, county coroner, and public training resources|
|Walla Walla County||Walla Walla Emergency Services Communications (WESCOM or Dispatch) provides 911 call answering||City facility providing services through interlocal agreements||User Agencies: law enforcement and fire agencies in Walla Walla County, also handles non-emergency request for public works/utilities|
|Whitman County||Whitman County Regional Communication Center (WHITCOM: 2004), countywide PSAP||Created under RCW 39.34||Law enforcement, fire, tribal law enforcement, and emergency medical services agencies in Whitman County, including WSU, as well as for the City of Moscow and Asotin County (ID)|
Regional Communication Facilities Additional Documents
The documents below show some of the initial steps in creating emergency communication services and facilities through interlocal agreements.
- King County Regional Communications Board
- Interlocal agreement among Seattle, Tacoma, Eastside Public Safety Communication Agency (ESPCA), King County, Snohomish County Emergency Radio System (SERS), and Valley Communications Center for the Puget Sound Next-Generation Voice/Data Switch Project
Snohomish County Emergency Radio System (SERS)
Snohomish County Emergency Radio Systems (SERS) is a public nonprofit corporation pursuant to chapter 24.06 RCW and IRC 501(c)(3) that was established via an interlocal agreement in 1999 with the cities of Brier, Edmonds, Everett, Lynnwood, Marysville, Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace, Mukilteo and Woodway, and the County. The purpose of SERS was to design, develop, finance, acquire, install, operate, maintain and repair and replace the county’s public safety communications service.
- Interlocal financing agreement (1999) between Snohomish County and Edmonds
- Snohomish County Ordinance No. 99-086 — Provides for the issuance and sale of limited tax general obligation bonds of the county in the aggregate principal amount of not to exceed $30,000,000
- Interlocal agreement (2011) between Pierce County, cities of Tacoma and Lakewood, and Pierce County Fire Protection District No. 3 for the creation and operation of South Sound 911
- Ballot Measure for funding the agency through a sales and use tax, November 2011 General Election
- South Sound 911 Archive Search — Can search for agreements, budget, finance, resolutions, motions of policy and operations boards, newsletters, and reports
- Kent Ordinance No. 3510 (2000) — Establishing Valley Communications Center Public Development Authority to finance the Center through the issuance of long-term debt; includes charter and bylaws; also includes accompanying Federal Way ordinance approving formation of the authority.
The Whitman County Regional Communication Center (WHITCOM), located in Pullman provides Emergency 911 communication services to citizens in Whitman County, and Asotin County and the city of Moscow in Idaho. WHITCOM is governed by a 6-member Executive Board. Whitman County provides administrative support and the city of Pullman provides Human Resources.
- Interlocal Agreement for 911 and Complete Dispatch Services (2004) — This agreement between the City of Pullman, Whitman County, Washington State University, and Moscow, Idaho is for WHITCOM to provide E911 services and complete dispatch services to Moscow, Idaho for initial period of 3 years with 2 one-year extensions.
- Interlocal Agreement for Enhanced 911 Emergency Communications/Dispatch (2013) —This agreement between the City of Pullman, Whitman county, and Washington State University is for enhanced 911 emergency communications and dispatch system
- Interlocal Agreement for 911 and Non-Emergency Dispatch Services (2015) — This agreement between Asotin County and the City of Pullman allows both to contract with WHITCOMM for 911 services
Misuse and Abuse of 911 Call System
911 is an emergency service and should be treated as such. However, unintentional misuse and intentional abuse of the 911 system is a problem that many operators deal with nationwide. Any time someone calls 911 without considering whether their situation merits it, lives are put at risk. Below are resources to help local governments tackle misuse and abuse of their 911 systems.
- Office of Community Oriented Policing Services: Misuse and Abuse of 911 (2002) — Part of the Problem-Oriented Guides for Police series, this section addresses the misuse and abuse of 911 and offers resources so that local governments can analyze and tackle the problem
- Edmonds Municipal Code Ch. 5.21 — Misuse identified as false request for emergency services or when the caller “does not have good faith basis to request” such assistance; provides penalties for violations
- Okanogan County Code Ch. 9.12 — Defines abuse of 911 system as any call that falls within the guidelines of RCW 9A.84.040
- Emergency Communications Guidance Documents and Publications — This webpage offers resources that help establish emergency communications capabilities
- Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) — Consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily registered their qualifications and equipment for communications duty when disaster strikes
- CALEA Public Safety Communications Accreditation Program — Provides a communications center with a process to review and internally assess its operations and procedures
- Washington State Public Safety Answering Points — List of agencies statewide operating as Public Safety Answering Points or Washington State Patrol Communication Centers