1. #1
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Question Combined dispatch centers

    My department (4500 total calls annually)currently does our own dispatching, and staffs the alarm center with firefighters. When we receive a 911 call, we are able to hear the actual phone conversation as it occurs with the dispatcher in all of our stations via the PA. This gives us a little headstart on our response times to the point that we are often responding as the call is being dispatched. It also gives us an idea of what we are walking into.

    Our city's administration wants to combine our dispatch with the city police, the County Sheriff, and another 18 or 19 county fire departments with an equal number of county EMS services (City/County population 24,000/80,000 respectively). The people that would staff this unit will be non-uniformed personnel, but the person(s) we now have in dispatch would be assigned to an Engine or Truck company. There would be no FD supervision available at this alarm center, so we really would have no information beyond possible fire, person injured, etc. This wouldn't bother me, but there have been some instances where some pretty important questions weren't asked, and some bad situations were narrowly averted. Some county dispatch examples:
    1. reported car fire -- found to be commercial hauler with possible hazardous cargo; only busted water line - luckily no fire.
    2. another reported car fire -- no one thought to mention that it was still in the attached garage.
    3. sweated dynamite -- caller told to bury the sticks, and firmly tamp the ground over the site (this luckily wasn't actually dynamite, or debris would still be falling.)

    Our Mayor was apparently a civilian dispatcher some years ago, and insists this system will work better than the existing system (translation=cheaper??). Although I am very skeptical, I am with great consternation, trying to be opened minded. It doesn't appear that there will be any more people hired to staff this center. There are currently 3 people to cover the current dispatch needs, and they are extremely busy. They have a law enforcement supervisor available, but one of these supervisors was the one who advised the dispatcher during the above dynamite incident. Also under this system, there will be no one at our station, so any requests for help will have to go through dispatchers also responsible for the PD and Sheriff's Office traffic; guess who gets missed in the shuffle.

    I'm really concerned they are trying to fix something that for us at least, isn't broken. I hope they aren't going to destroy what has been a good system for us in order to improve the other system. I wouldn't care if they would replace our dispatch firefighters (no one loses their job) with civilian personnel, but I hate to lose the call over the PA, and the ability to double check the calls with the dispatcher.

    I was wondering if anyone else has experience with systems like they are proposing. I would also be interested in hearing anyother ideas, thoughts, etc. that you might have. I'm really concerned our response times will suffer, and my people's safety wil be compromised with the loss of the features provided by our current system.

    Steve Gallagher
    Chillicothe (Ohio) Fire Department

    [This message has been edited by Steamer (edited January 21, 2000).]

  2. #2
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Thumbs down

    Let me guess: It's a money issue, right? Don't let them do it. Service to you and service to the citizen will suffer. I am in a similar situation right now at www.federalwayfire.org. We are civilian, but very proud of our fire department connection, and very competent. We have been told that in two years our dispatch center will close, and the department will contract with a large multi-agency communications center. This place has been slowly taking over all the small dispatch operations in our area. They are incompetent. The worst part? I have to work with these people every day (mutual aid, etc.) It's like a daily slap in the face from my employer. They've picked blatant incompetence over me. That's how I see it. Do I sound like I'm bitter? No, not me.

    Member, IAFF Local 2024

  3. #3
    Lieutenant Gonzo
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Our fire dispatching used to be done from Headquarters by civilian personnel who worked the same 10 and 14's that we did. If a dispatcher was out, another one would work overtime and fill the slot. If none of the other dispatchers were available, a firefighter would be assigned to the alarm room and dispatch for the day/night. The Fire Alarm got moved into the Police station in 1990 as part of the enhanced 911 PSAP/Emergency Communications Center covering our city, we are the backup PSAP for the surrounding towns and vice versa. Police and fire dispatchers work side by side using a computer aided dispatching system. Many of the dispatchers are cross trained for FD and PD dispatching. Dispatchers work 8 hour shifts on a rotating basis.

    There are times that I wish we still had control, especially in certain situations. The main thing is training of dispatch personnel... Most of the new hires on the Police and Fire Departments were dispatchers who took the exams and got hired, meaning a whole new group of dispatchers to get used to!

    Take care and be safe...Lt. Gonzo

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