In her new role, Harris will guide the operations of a 17-member board chaired by Eric Boyette, the state’s Chief Information Officer and Secretary of the Department of Information Technology. The board is responsible for both wireline and wireless 911 communications in the state, as well as related policies and procedures, and it administers the state’s 911 Fund. The fund is used to support equipment purchases for the 117 911 centers in the state. The board is housed within the N.C. Department of Information Technology.
Harris succeeds former Executive Director Richard Taylor, who recently retired. He had been the board’s director since it was established by the General Assembly in 1998.
“While we realize we lose tremendous institutional knowledge with Richard’s retirement, we are excited that we were able to find someone with Pokey’s experience to fill this critical role,” Boyette said. “Her work as an EMT, in disaster preparedness and with 911 systems give her important insight into all the ways our board interacts with the public and other agencies.”
Harris had previously worked as the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) Liaison between the board and the state’s 911 centers, which are referred to as PSAPs within the industry. Previously, she had worked in Wake County as the operations manager for Raleigh-Wake Emergency Communications Center and as the disaster preparedness program manager in the Division of Public Health.
She worked for much of her career in Virginia, where she was the E911 coordinator for the Twin County E911 Regional Commission and later a regional 911 coordinator for the Virginia Information Technologies Agency for a 16-county area of southwest Virginia. From 2009-15, she was the director of emergency management for Washington County, Va., overseeing emergency management, emergency communications, and emergency medical services.
Harris is a former vice-chair of the Virginia Emergency Medical Services Advisory Board and certified as an emergency medical technician for 24 years. She served on both the Virginia 911 Services Board and the Smyth County, Va., Planning Commission. She earned a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Intermont College and a master’s degree in public administration from Jacksonville State University.
“I am humbled to be stepping into this new role,” Harris said. “Having spent almost a quarter of a century working with public safety programs, I am excited to be part of what North Carolina is doing to provide 911 service to all of our citizens and visitors. This service has grown under the leadership of my predecessor, Richard Taylor, and with the guidance of the 911 Board and leadership at NCDIT, we will continue to move forward.”
Harris comes to the 911 Board as it moves toward completing its Next Gen 911 project. The new technology will give the state the ability to connect all its 911 centers through internet-based routing services, allowing the centers to seamlessly communicate with one another. The new high-speed connections will enable every center to serve as a backup for any other center in the state in the event of a natural disaster or an overload of emergency calls.
North Carolina’s existing 911 system was built in the 1960s, and the centers rely on an outdated analog system to communicate with one another. Some centers cannot connect at all. The $99 million project is scheduled to be completed in 2020.
The N.C. 911 Board is responsible for both wireline and wireless 911 communications in the state, as well as related policies and procedures, and it administers the state’s 911 Fund. The fund is used to support equipment purchases for all 911 centers in the state. The board is housed with the N.C. Department of Information Technology.