Jul 29

Pecos Valley Regional Communications Center

Posted on July 29, 2021 at 9:43 AM by Public Affairs

If you need help in an emergency in Roswell or anywhere else in Chaves County, chances are you will be talking to one of the dispatchers at the Pecos Valley Regional Communications Center. The telecommunicators of PVRCC answer all 911 calls made in Chaves County and dispatch emergency fire, police and medical services for the City of Roswell, Chaves County Sheriff’s Office, and all police, fire and EMS agencies within the county. In all, PVRCC does the dispatching for 20 agencies consisting of 12 fire departments, five law enforcement agencies and three EMS services.

The center operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. While on duty, dispatchers and supervisors are responsible for the intake of all 911 calls, as well as administrative calls for the departments they serve. They also serve as the radio operators for all emergency-service responders, providing police, fire and medical personnel with pertinent information concerning calls for service and are responsible for the safety of the responders relative to scene information, as well as ensuring law enforcement officers are provided with updates about any potential threats associated with a scene or individuals with whom they come in contact. 

“Having the responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of our community and our responders is a tremendous strain,” says PVRCC Director Teri Best. “In addition to the technical skills needed in being a 911 operator and dispatcher, a certain strength of character and resilience is necessary. Most of the telephone calls we handle are people under duress. They are often scared, sometimes angry, and can be verbally abusive. 

“We also work under the knowledge that with every call we dispatch, we are sending our responders into potential danger. 

“It takes a special kind of person to be able to work under that type of stress. We are selective in those that join our team.”

Dispatcher  Darla Shannon multiple screens (7-27-21)

Dispatcher Darla Shannon checks information on multiple screens as she works a shift at Pecos Valley Regional Communications Center.

The dispatch center’s 21-person staff has 13 emergency dispatchers, four shift supervisors and four administrators. Best calls the front-line dispatchers, who deal directly with the citizens calling in an emergency, the “heart” of the facility. They work under the management of the shift supervisors, who are responsible for the smooth operation of the center during their shifts. Each supervisor is a liaison with the agencies for which the center is dispatching, and each supervisor also handles any issues that may arise during a shift. 

The administrative staff consists of a Training Coordinator, Quality Coordinator, Operations Coordinator, and Director. 

The Training Coordinator is responsible for developing, implementing and updating all in-house training for the entire staff. The Training Coordinator also ensures all certified personnel obtain the continuing education needed to retain their certifications and deliver service in line with the latest industry standards. 

The Quality Coordinator is responsible for developing, implementing and maintaining the quality-assurance and quality-improvement program for the center’s performance. This includes call review, documentation, and support to the Training Coordinator and supervisors to enable them to constantly improve the performance of the teams. The Quality Coordinator also has oversight of the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) operations used at the dispatch center, is the primary source of records, and is the system administrator for the Emergency 911 Call System.

The Operations Coordinator is responsible for the equipment, systems and services of the center, a job that includes coordinating maintenance and repairs, purchasing, and personnel and staffing. The Operations Coordinator is the primary contact at dispatch for other agencies and coordinates the development and implementation of dispatch’s policies and procedures based on the needs of each agency.

The Director is the department head and administrator for the dispatch center. The primary role of the director is to support PVRCC team members in their roles and responsibilities. The Director oversees the budget; secures funding for equipment, services and products; creates and distributes reports; and coordinates communication with city and county administrators and officials. 

Shift Supervisor Raelynn Villarreal (7-27-21)

Shift Supervisor Raelynn Villarreal enters information at Pecos Valley Regional Communications Center.

The dispatchers and other staff members of Pecos Valley Regional Communications Center are members of the public safety family,” says Director Best. “We interact with agency administration, EMTs, paramedics, firefighters, police officers and deputies all day every day. We are the first first-responders of the City of Roswell and Chaves County. In addition to that, we are responsible for the safety of our field responders. This creates a strong bond with our community and the responders we serve.” 

The number of 911 calls handled by PVRCC dispatchers in 2020 totaled 49,025. That’s slightly more than 134 each day. 

Many people assume a dispatcher knows the specific location from which a 911 call is being made. However, with most of these calls made from cellphones today, narrowing down the location of a caller is limited, usually only getting the location to a general area based on the cellphone signal. So, says Best, “The most important thing we need to know when you call 911 is where you are. Always give your location to the operator as clearly as you can.”

Best adds PVRCC has the benefit of the fact that “a good number of our communicators were raised in this area. Having historical knowledge of how the area has grown and changed over the years is a tremendous asset in the work that we do.” 

The City of Roswell is the fiscal agent for PVRCC. All employees are city employees. Under a joint powers agreement, Chaves County shares the operating expenses of the consolidated dispatch center with the city. The center is housed in the Chaves County Administration Building in south Roswell. 

The dispatch center continues to make improvements to better serve the community. An updated emergency 911 computer system was recently installed after the center’s electrical system was enhanced. The center is presently in the process of changing the floor design and replacing outdated furniture. The center will soon begin implementing structured call taking, which allows for a consistent method of information gathering. It assists dispatchers with asking the right questions in the right order for the situation at hand, even when under duress. It helps the dispatcher provide responders with accurate and concise information concerning call nature and situation with emphasis on safety. The structured process also gives the dispatchers instant access to instructions such as CPR, childbirth, sinking vehicle and many others so they can provide instant response assistance to callers and bystanders in life-threatening situations. 

“The structured call-taking protocols chosen by Pecos Valley are backed by scientific research and clinical review, meeting or exceeding industry standards to ensure we provide our community with the most up-to-date and highest level of care possible,” says Best. “We continue to look for technology that will assist in the practical side of the job so that our focus can be on the more important relational side. We do all that we can to support one another emotionally to help keep us strong.” 

Mar 31

K9 Unit - Roswell Police Department

Posted on March 31, 2021 at 12:25 PM by Public Affairs

Wood and Auda
K9 Officer Ashley Wood and K9 Auda

With illicit drug activity linked to so many violent offenses and property crimes, the battle to take illegal drugs and those who deal in them off the streets is a high priority for the Roswell Police Department. Playing a big role in that effort is the department’s K9 Unit that was re-established in May 2020.

The four drug-detecting dogs and their handlers have made a significant impact in taking drugs off Roswell’s streets, which helps reduce overall crime and makes the community a safer place for its residents and visitors.

“The major problem in this town in the drug use,” says K9 Officer Ashley Wood. “Drug use leads to burglaries, thefts and violent crimes against people. If we are able to clean the streets up, I believe is will help with the crime rate.”

Wood spends her shifts working with her K9 partner Auda, a female German Shepherd. Joining Wood and Auda in the K9 Unit are K9 Officer Skye Wentland and K9 Kazan (a male German Shepherd/Belgian Malinois mix), K9 Officer Cody Schwartz and K9 Tesla (a female Belgian Malinois) and K9 Sgt. Jeff Prince and K9 Tauron (a male Belgian Malinois). Lt. Chris Bradley oversees the unit as K9 coordinator. Each of these personnel were already members of RPD before they chose to become part of the K9 Unit.

Wentland and Kazan
K9 Officer Skye Wentland and K9 Kazan

The K9s use their special skills when requested by any patrol officers or narcotics agents. A traffic stop may lead to an officer having suspicions about drugs possibly being hidden in a vehicle so a K9 and handler may be called to the scene. Members of the K9 Unit may also work with narcotics agents as they execute a search warrant on a house or other property. The K9s’ highly-sensitive sense of smell can detect the odor of narcotics on a variety of objects, with some of the more common items dealt with being vehicles, buildings, packages and luggage. The K9s and their handlers work regular patrol shifts, carrying out the usual duties of a police officer, but are also on an on-call schedule that makes the specialized unit available 24/7. 

Dogs such as those in RPD’s K9 Unit are imported from Europe, where they receive initial training before coming to the United States. RPD acquired its dogs from a facility in Texas, where the handlers go to get paired with their K9 partner and train together before beginning their duty in Roswell.

Schwartz and Tesla
K9 Officer Cody Schwartz and K9 Tesla

Before meeting a handler, the dogs are trained for a year to develop obedience to a handler, narcotics detection, and tracking, which enables them to assist in finding missing people or criminal suspects. The handler then arrives at the training facility, goes through the first couple days of training with a few dogs to determine a good match with the right K9, and then trains with the selected K9 for three weeks. Each dog is chosen based on the handler’s preference and the bond they establish.

A handler must manage the daily responsibilities of being a patrol officer and making sure his or her dog is properly cared for, while also meeting all the required training hours per month. A police dog becomes not only a K9 officer’s trusted partner in law enforcement, but also part of the family.

K9 Officer Wood says Auda “likes to lay on the couch,” but they also “often go to the park so she can be a dog. Everyone needs a break from work, including the dog. Our bond has gotten much stronger in the past year and we build on that every day.”

That positive relationship impact of the department’s four-legged members can reach to other RPD officers, as well.

The dogs are also a great companion for other officers,” Wood says. “If (certain officers) are having a bad day at work, a little bit of puppy love can help cheer them up.”

Prince and Tauron
K9 Sgt. Jeff Prince and K9 Tauron

From approximately the late 1990s to the late 2000s, RPD had K9s at various times, including two narcotics-detection dogs that were eventually retired. Two other dogs were used primarily for tracking and detaining fleeing suspects. Those dogs were also retired following their service in the department.

The re-establishment of the K9 Unit was made possible thanks to the generous financial support of the Roswell community. That support is the funding foundation for the K9 program. In early 2020, organizations and individuals contributed the start-up costs to purchase the first two dogs, get the handlers trained with their dogs and make modifications to the handlers’ police vehicles to accommodate the K9s. Since then, ongoing support has enabled the unit to add two more dogs and handlers and help provide the dogs’ food and veterinarian care.

Visit the RPD K9 Unit webpage

Feb 25

Wastewater Lab

Posted on February 25, 2021 at 1:29 PM by Public Affairs

Testing and otherwise analyzing Roswell’s wastewater on a constant basis to make sure it is safe to be disposed of – and even used for farm irrigation – is the task of the Wastewater Laboratory at the City of Roswell’s Wastewater Treatment Plant on East College Boulevard at the city’s eastern edge.

The Wastewater Lab monitors the wastewater going through and leaving the treatment plant seven days a week. The three employees of the lab conduct tests to measure contaminants and organic material in the wastewater, as well as the pH level, making certain the amounts and levels of these things meet the standards set by the New Mexico Environment Department. The treatment plant and lab are also governed by regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

wastewater lab 1
Wastewater Laboratory Technician Sarah Torrez conducts a pH test.

Wastewater samples from various locations within the plant are collected and brought to the lab for analysis. The staff conducts various tests on the samples to check for contaminants and make sure pH levels are appropriate. The analyses also allow these experts on staff to monitor biochemical oxygen demand, which is a factor in the number of active microorganisms in wastewater. Among other tests are those checking the amount of total suspended solids and total dissolved solids. The lab also does some testing for drinking water. Monthly reports for that water and wastewater are submitted to the New Mexico Environment Department.

Most of the testing is conducted at the lab by two lab technician assistants, who also head out to other locations to perform field analysis at designated points along drinking water distribution systems, at the city’s well sites, at residences and at commercial water customers’ locations, such as restaurants. The third member of the lab staff is the lab technician, who does some of the testing while overseeing the overall operation of the facility, ensuring quality control, submitting required reports to the state, and billing outside entities – water districts and restaurants, for example, that must meet water-quality standards – that use the Roswell lab to test their samples. The lab draws that outside business because it is a state-certified microbiological laboratory and one of only a few in New Mexico that conducts water bacteriological tests for state and non-state entities.

Through the years, the lab has maintained and upgraded all of its equipment to comply with governmental regulation-agency standards. Operation of the lab itself is a requirement since the Wastewater Treatment Plant must adhere to self-monitoring standards set by the oversight agencies. That constant monitoring ensures the wastewater is safe to be discharged into the Hondo River, where it is further diluted as it travels downstream, or to be supplied to local farmers who use it to irrigate crops during the growing season. All the wastewater that is discharged from the treatment plant must meet federal standards requiring it to be safe enough to be “fishable and swimmable.”

wastewater lab 2

Wastewater Laboratory Technician Sarah Torrez examines a wastewater sample that will be used to check oxygen depletion. 

One of the main functions of the processes used to treat the wastewater is to break down and remove many organic solids from the water. People may not realize chemicals are not used to do this. The organic matter is removed by systems at the treatment plant that use gravity and naturally occurring microorganisms, which eat the organic solids. And the lab makes sure those things are doing their jobs adequately. From the time wastewater enters the treatment plant to when it is discharged, at least 98 percent of the solid contaminants have been removed.

In addition to ensuring the treatment plant is producing properly treated wastewater, the lab assists other city departments when needed. For example, when new water lines are being installed or lines are being repaired within the city’s drinking water transmission system, the lab is called on to use its resources and expertise to conduct bacterial tests to make sure the new or repaired lines are not a source of contaminates.

A video about the Wastewater Lab is also available.