D.C. center to unify public-safety services

District of Columbia officials broke ground yesterday for the Unified Communications Center on the campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital in southeast Washington.

Mayor Anthony A. Williams and chief technology officer Suzanne Peck shoveled earth at the location of the future $43 million building. It will serve as a hub for police and fire 911 calls, nonemergency 311 calls, the mayor's call center and the D.C. Emergency Management Agency.

In the event of a regional emergency, the three-story building will house command and control operations for joint local and federal emergency teams.

'This is going to provide a major advance in how our city communicates, not only among agencies but with our people,' Williams said.

'Just think of your hand,' D.C. Council chairwoman Linda Cropp said. 'Put all your fingers together in a balled-up fist, and you can whap your enemies real easy.'

Slated for completion by the summer of 2005, the center will be staffed by 350 people 24 hours a day.

'No one will have a facility like this anywhere in the country,' Peck said. 'It will answer everyday service calls, dispatch police and firefighters, and direct communications during a natural disaster. The UCC is designed to do it all.'

City officials said the center also will bring economic development to Washington's Ward 8, east of the Anacostia River.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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