Over the past two weeks, I took the opportunity to spend some time observing two of our city departments in action. These two departments, the 911 dispatch center, and the O’Fallon Water Department are two that we sometimes take for granted — until an emergency occurs. But they are always willing and ready to serve the citizens of O’Fallon.
You may or may not know that our state-of-the-art dispatch center was remodeled and opened in December 2016. Currently, we dispatch for the O’Fallon, Fairview Heights, and Shiloh Police Departments. We also dispatch the O’Fallon, Fairview Heights, and French Village Fire Departments, as well as the O’Fallon/Shiloh EMS. Our dispatch center operates under the name Metro East Communications, or MECOMM, and employs 12 full-time telecommunicators and seven part-time telecommunicators. This staff is highly respected throughout the region and is one of the reasons that it is one of only four such centers to exist throughout all of St. Clair County.
The men and women of this department truly know how to get police, fire and ambulance to an emergency site as quickly as possible. They can also access past records at the blink of an eye, using some of the most modern equipment and software to aide our police during a police stop. But it is their ability to calm down a desperate caller to get the information needed and help them until the police, fire, or ambulance can be on site, that is truly amazing.
MECOMM is one of the reasons the Insurance Services Office recently upgraded O’Fallon’s fire rating from Class 4 to Class 3. Ten percent of the overall ISO rating is based on the capabilities of the 911 dispatch center.
Less than 36 hours after my night with MECOMM, on Sunday morning, a major water line that transports water to Fairview Heights and O’Fallon suffered a break. I was proud to see the quick response and professionalism of the staff of the Water Department when they sprang into action to locate and then fix the break.
Not knowing which of three lines in the immediate area was broke, the staff began the work of determining the break location and repairing the line. This required digging into the dirt over seven feet deep, and removing concrete, asphalt and dirt, just to reach the break. As they began to remove the layers of material, they discovered that they had to work around two other water lines, two sewer lines, a gas line and a conduit filled with cabling. Talk about mounting difficulties!
Unable to isolate the water main, the crews had to shut down the entire water system to make repairs. Finally, after 17 hours of non-stop work, the repair was made and water service was restored.
But their work was not yet done. Numerous water valves had to be reengaged and a gaping hole where asphalt once laid, had to be repaired in the intersection.
It should be pointed out that another reason why our fire ratings were improved is because of O’Fallon’s excellent water system, and its ability to provide adequate water to combat fires. In fact, 40 percent of the ISO rating is calculated by the volume and pressure of the water system.
While I am at it, I also want to complement the staff that came in late Sunday to help answer phone calls from our water customers, our Public Works director, Public Works operations manager, O’Fallon’s fire chief, many of our dedicated Public Safety employees, Fairview’s fire chief, Fairview police and members of the Caseyville sewer system, all of whom were on site to assist.
As residents of O’Fallon, you should always be able to reach out to your elected officials and ask questions about what is happening in O’Fallon. Having open communications is important to me and something I care very deeply about. Thank you for reading, and please remember, my door is always open.