John Stuermer, executive director of the Hamilton County 9-1-1 Emergency Communications District since 2004, will retire Dec. 13.
Current operations director Jeff Carney is serving as acting executive director while the district’s board of directors searches for a permanent replacement.
Stuermer has a long history in emergency services in Hamilton County. He joined the Chattanooga Police Department in 1977 and then moved up the ranks from patrol officer to supervisor of the special investigations unit and internal affairs.
Stuermer retired from the CPD 27 years later as captain in command of major investigations and the information center.
In 2004, Stuermer was selected to be the executive director of what is generally referred to as the Hamilton County 9-1-1 Center.
“Six employees managed the routing of 9-1-1 calls to public safety agencies” recalls Stuermer. “It was only the beginning.”
In 2006, Stuermer was tasked with unifying emergency communications services in Hamilton County. This effort culminated in the establishment of a county-wide emergency communications center in 2009.
The unified 9-1-1 center now has 175 budgeted positions and takes calls and dispatches services for every public safety agency in the county, excluding Lookout Mountain and Soddy Daisy.
“One of the many advantages of unification is interoperability,” says Stuermer. “We’re all in the same room and can communicate seamlessly with every agency.”
That continuity was put to the test during major incidents, such as the tornado touchdowns in 2011 and the terrorist attack in 2015.
“As you can imagine, the call load went through the roof,” Stuermer says. “But our telecommunicators worked together to take the calls and dispatch first responders across multiple agencies.”
Stuermer says reducing abandoned or delayed 9-1-1 calls was another benefit of unification.
“The standard for emergency communication centers is to answer 95% of 9-1-1 calls within 10 seconds. We answer all calls – 9-1-1 and non-emergency – within an average of four seconds.”
During Stuermer’s tenure as executive director, the 9-1-1 center has led Tennessee in advancements. It was the first in the state to implement Automated Secure Alarm Protocol to Public Safety Answering Point, eliminating up to three minutes of response time for each alarm incident.
It was also the first in the state to provide the Text 9-1-1 service and the first to provide the PulsePoint mobile phone application to improve responses to victims of cardiac arrest.
Another improvement was the implementation of Mobile CAD and Automatic Vehicle Location for public safety agencies, which enables the 9-1-1 center to see the location of emergency responder vehicles. Knowing their locations can help the telecommunicator know which units are closest to an incident, reducing response times.
In a few months, the 9-1-1 center will see the addition of RapidSOS Premium, an emergency response data platform that provides additional features to enhance the Mobile CAD system, including the location of body cameras worn by police officers.
“It’s not just about shaving seconds off of response times,” says Stuermer. “It’s also about safety. If a police officer becomes isolated and unable to communicate, the telecommunicators will be able to locate the active body camera on the officer and send help. That could be a lifesaver.”
Stuermer says his biggest challenge as executive director was keeping pace with technology.
“It’s a constant challenge to make sure we have the best technology for our first responders and citizens. We started off with two IT people. Now we have seven to manage all the applications we use and to stay up-to-date with the latest advancements.”
Over the years, Stuermer has contributed to advancements in public safety emergency communication service statewide as he worked with the Tennessee Emergency Numbers Association, the Association of Public-Safety Officials and the Tennessee Emergency Communications Board.
He served as president of TN 9-1-1, an organization that works with the Tennessee legislature to pass legislation to enhance public safety emergency communications in the state. TENA named him a recipient of the Senator Joe Haynes award for “going beyond the ordinary to protect Tennessee’s citizens and property.”
As Stuermer wraps up his duties as executive director, he leaves the 9-1-1 center feeling grateful. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with a team that provides the highest quality of emergency communications. I could always count on them to do what was necessary and right.”
Board chairperson Dr. Richard Brown offers praise for the outgoing executive director, saying, “Because of John’s great work and the commitment to excellence of a great team, our emergency operations center is now benchmarked as one of the best in our state, region and nation.”
Source: Hamilton County 9-1-1 Center