Established January 19, 1948 by the Board of Supervisors, the Communications Department began as a 5-person operation working out of a small musty room in the old court house. Technical staff had to build as well as maintain most of the radio equipment used, and dispatchers communicated with only 10 radio-equipped Sheriff's Office units.
The operation was later moved to larger quarters in the Central Fire District station on Tully Road. But, by 1957, space limitations made it impossible for the department's 35 employees to expand service beyond the 33 agencies then served.
In 1959, a new $250,000 communications center was built on Carol Drive atop the valley floor's highest (436 feet) natural geographical feature. From this site, over 80% direct radio coverage of the county was possible, with coverage to remaining areas achieved through the incorporated use of several mountaintop repeater sites.
By 1959, using over $1,000,000 worth of radio equipment and 7 radio frequencies, County Communications' 47 employees served the dispatching, radio maintenance and telephone needs of more than 35 agencies and 325 radio-equipped vehicles.
In the early 1960s, an addition to the center was made to house the studio and transmitter for KTEH, television channel 54, which Communications staff were instrumental in developing. By the early 1970s, as the department's increased service demands again caused it to outgrow its space, a wing was added to provide a larger dispatching control room.
In 1974, County and City of San Jose Communications operations were consolidated, effectively doubling the size of the department. Further renovation permitted accomodating additional staff and implementation in 1976 of an innovative, state-of-the-art computer aided dispatching (CAD) system to provide City emergency dispatching services. Continued growth and the need to reconfigure resources led to yet another building addition in the late 1970s.
In 1984, the Communications Center went online with an enhanced emergency 9-1-1 telephone system. This system, recognized at that time as the largest and most sophisticated system in California, automatically routes 9-1-1 calls from appropriate geographical areas to the Communications Center and identifies callers' phone numbers and addresses, which enables dispatchers to quickly coordinate necessary emergency responses.
After County Communications discontinued providing dispatching services to San Jose in 1990, and as manual dispatching functions began to be converted to computer assisted operations, evaluation of equipment replacement and operational reconfiguration needs resulted in the Board of Supervisors authorization of our current $4 million facility renovation and equipment upgrade project.
To date, completed facility renovation includes seismic upgrade to current earthquake standards, installation of energy efficient lighting and an uninterrupted power supply (UPS) to support critical service systems, one of the County's first fully addressable fire alarm systems, completely adjustable dispatcher workstations to address ergonomic issues, the latest in computer controlled radio consoles and a complete gym for stress reduction and fitness.
Work still to be completed includes final renovation of the mobile installation area, air conditioning upgrade of the receiver vault building, new ergonomic chairs for dispatch operations, ergonomic furniture for technical services and landscaping which includes an outside eating area and observation deck for stress reduction.
Completion of this project recognizes the County's leadership and strong commitment to public safety by providing the citizens of Santa Clara County with one of the most advanced and reliable public safety communications centers in the nation.