Many things have changed for Houston County’s E-911 system in the past four-plus years, and Holly Britain has been there to manage it all.
That changes this week as Britain has stepped down as the county’s E-911 director. Britain will be getting married soon and relocating to Baldwin County.
Dothan Fire Department Deputy Chief Chris Etheredge will serve as the interim E-911 director until the Dothan-Houston County Communications District’s board can hire a full-time replacement.
Britain worked for the City of Dothan, primarily as a dispatcher, for almost 22 years before becoming the E-911 director in April 2015. She quickly tackled the largest project in her time as director, overseeing the rollout of a new computer-aided dispatching (CAD) system by November of that year.
The switch in software improved dispatchers’ abilities to relay information since outdated notes for several addresses were archived then removed from daily usage, Britain said.
“The old CAD had 25 years of data,” she said. “We are able to put flags (notes) on each address from prior calls. The dispatcher gives out advisory lists. Some of those lists would be two pages long.
“(The new system) gives a better response. It was less work on the dispatchers as they didn’t have as much to look at.”
The most visible – and another huge change – occurred in April 2017 when the E-911 system relocated to a brand new $5 million facility. The facility, which also houses the Dothan-Houston County Emergency Management Agency, brought the Dothan and Houston County dispatching services under one roof.
“It helps with the training and helped get us more on the same page,” Britain said. “We’re having a better camaraderie.”
Britain also managed a change in E-911 software during her tenure as director. Dothan Police Chief Steve Parrish, currently the chairman of the communications district board, noted Britain performed well in the position.
“She worked cooperatively with the board,” he said. “She (did) a good job of being accountable to the board from a financial standpoint. It’s a big set of shoes to fill. We’re going to miss her.”
Parrish said the board has already advertised the position using processes the City of Dothan’s personnel department has implemented. Once the position closes and applicants are screened, those who match the qualifications will be mailed a questionnaire.
After the applicants return the questionnaire, a personnel subcommittee of the communications district board will make final interview recommendations. Those interviews will be conducted in board meetings, which are open to the public, Parrish said.
Parrish said the board is searching for candidates who have a background in public safety and in financial management.
“The E-911 board is composed of appointees from both the city and the county and four permanent positions: the (Dothan) police chief, (Dothan) fire chief, the volunteer fire association (president) and (a) sheriff (representative),” Parrish said. “Those are full-time positions. On a day-to-day basis, the board relies on the director. The board puts a lot of faith in the director.”
Parrish noted the board wants to hire a permanent director quickly.