Sewickley Heights set to move to Allegheny County 911

Monday, March 5, 2018 | 11:00 PM

Allegheny County soon will handle all emergency calls from residents of Sewickley Heights, one of the remaining communities in the county that fields police calls directly.

Residents already dial 911 for medical and fire emergencies, and as of March 12 they also will dial 911 for police emergencies, Sewickley Heights Chief J.J. Harrison said.

All emergency calls will go directly to Allegheny County 911, which then will dispatch local police and other first responders to the scene.

“We're very excited about this because we feel it's a good upgrade in our health and safety operation,” Mayor John C. Oliver III said.

County 911 can pinpoint a caller's approximate location — something that a call directly to the police department doesn't accomplish.

“We looked at this mainly as a safety issue. The biggest (reason) for changing is technology,” Harrison said.

Sewickley Heights police were unable to automatically determine a caller's location if they phone into the police department, especially from a cellphone, he said.

“Tracking cellphone calls could mean the difference between life and death,” Harrison said.

The Allegheny County 911 Center averages a little less than 1.5 million calls for service each year, and taking on Sewickley Heights will add “a couple thousand” to that, said Matthew Brown, chief of Allegheny County emergency services.

The move will not cost the borough additional funds, Oliver said. Eventually, he hopes to add another full-time police officer to the department. The department has six officers, a mix of full time and part time, Harrison said.

Within the last year, the borough promoted Harrison to police chief and hired a new municipal manager, so, Oliver said, “we thought it was a good time to review all operations.” Harrison has worked in the department since 2004.

About 700 people live in Sewickley Heights.

Allegheny County 911 Center and Department of Emergency Services is based on North Lexington Avenue in Point Breeze, but the operation will move to the former U.S. Airways Operations Center in Moon, the county announced last year.

Kimberly Palmiero is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

Update: The online version of this story was updated March 6 to include comment from Matthew Brown, chief of Allegheny County emergency services.