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From November 1974 until March 1994, the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC) was located in an underground quonset hut-type structure on 25.6 acres surrounded by a park. Built in 1956, with two-foot-thick concrete walls and buried 30 feet underground, the facility was originally designed for emergency government operations and was touted as being able to survive a 20-megaton bomb "near-hit" and be self-sustaining for up to 90 days.
In November 1974, BOEC began taking calls for local police agencies, and in January 1980, Multnomah County added the Emergency Medical System (EMS) so that both medical and police calls would be handled by the same bureau. 9-1-1 service was introduced to Multnomah County in November 1981, and several new employees were hired for the specialized task of answering and dispatching medical calls. Cross-training of all employees was conducted as medical and police telecommunicators learned each others' jobs.
Enhanced 9-1-1 was implemented in February 1991. The new system brought computerized information about a 9-1-1 caller's location and telephone number. This invaluable feature has nearly eliminated the need for lengthy telephone tracing procedures in the event of hang-ups or "incomplete" calls, and speeds service to people who need emergency help but may be unable to voice their address or problem.
As the facility aged under the pressure of housing a growing 24-hour emergency operation, it became clear that a new center was needed. Ground-breaking began in October 1992 at a new site in SE Portland. The City of Portland chose to combine the construction of the new Portland Communications Center with the purchase of updated computer and radio systems.
In March 1994, BOEC personnel moved to their new building and began using a new computer aided dispatch (CAD) system and a new 800 megahertz (MHz) radio system. In addition to BOEC, the 40,000 square-foot facility houses the communications (ComNet) division of the Bureau of Technology Services which maintains the 800 MHz radio system used by public safety agencies within the City of Portland, Gresham, Multnomah County, and other government agencies. The Emergency Operations Center (EOC), a branch of Portland Fire & Rescue which plans and implements emergency responses in the event of a county-wide disaster, is also located at the Communications Center.
The final step to consolidating all 9-1-1 services under a single agency occurred in March 1994, when BOEC also began dispatching units for fire departments throughout Multnomah County. Now, when area residents call 9-1-1 for any type of emergency, the call is taken and dispatched from the Portland Communications Center.
In 2001-2002 the Communications Center was dramatically remodeled to better reflect the ever-evolving mission of emergency communications. At the heart of the remodel is a new Operations floor, located atop a raised computer floor that allows a nearly unlimited potential for future growth. The Operations floor features state-of-the-art CAD, telephone, and radio interfaces and ergonomic workstations that far exceed industry standards for comfort and safety.
In addition, the remodel allowed BOEC to create a separate ten-position Computer Lab –a virtual duplication, on a smaller scale, of the Operations floor. This multipurpose room serves as BOEC’s on-site communications back-up location. If necessary, all 9-1-1 Operations can be run from the Computer Lab. The Lab sits adjacent to BOEC’s new classroom. The classroom features smart technologies that - in conjunction with the Computer Lab - are designed to provide the best possible learning environment.
BOEC is operated by the City of Portland and has agreements with user agencies to provide calltaking and dispatch services. Agencies include: Portland Police Bureau, Portland Fire & Rescue, Gresham Police & Fire Departments, Multnomah County Sheriff's Office, Troutdale Police, Fairview Police, Corbett & Sauvie Island Volunteer Fire Departments, and Multnomah County Emergency Medical Services.