10-13-2004, 05:34 PM #1
Utah-Utah County Sheriff pushes for total control of all Disptach
Dispatch-center unity sought in Utah County
Sheriff says better coordination vital to battle terror, disasters
By Sharon Haddock
Deseret Morning News
PROVO — To be the most effective against terrorism and threats of natural disaster, the five dispatch centers in the county need to get on the same page, says Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy.
Melissa Smith is a Provo city dispatcher. Four other entities in the county have dispatch centers.
Stuart Johnson, Deseret Morning News
And consolidating the county's five police dispatching agencies into one is a key element, Tracy said. Also needed is the consolidation of records, finding a central location, combining resources and perhaps in some instances, eliminating jobs — if area public safety officials can agree.
Tracy told the Utah County mayors in a recent Council of Governments meeting that the $2.7 million Homeland Security grant awarded to the county this past year to help pay for an upgraded Record Management System (RMS) is just one component of what needs to be a complete unification process.
"Our goal is for all police, fire and EMS agencies to be able to immediately share critical information. Right now we have precious little ability to push and pull information. Only a couple of the centers are integrated," Tracy said. "It's been like herding cats."
Tracy said the dispatch centers are not all on the same radio frequencies, for one thing. There are varying levels of computer capability and breakdowns in the flow of information.
The five dispatch centers are located in Springville, Orem, Provo, Pleasant Grove and the Utah County Sheriff's Office.
With consolidation, all police, fire and emergency services personnel would be able to immediately share critical information, Tracy said.
"The joint RMS system opens the door to a single, unified dispatch center," Tracy said.
Tracy said the report on the 9/11 disaster in New York City showed the single biggest problem was in communication between agencies. "Lack of communication killed firefighters and policemen," he said.
Although combining the centers could eventually save money and bring about a more coordinated response, it could also come with substantial start-up costs and some loss of local control.
Tracy said some jobs would be duplicated and thus some personnel would need to be reassigned or let go. However, most of the dispatchers can probably be absorbed into the central unit, he said.
A safe, central location will need to be found, a place that can continue operating through natural or human-caused disaster.
"There are plenty of places in Utah County it can't go," Tracy said.
A funding mechanism will need to be put into place such as a special service district that will have taxing authority or the ability to charge fees for operation and use of the center, he said.
Tracy will head up a committee to research the possibilities and report to the county mayors in a future session. He isn't certain how long it will take to collect the information.
"Based on public safety issues, we think the time is right (to look seriously at consolidation)," he said.
Springville Police Chief Scott Finlayson said he is in favor of looking at unification but he'll have to see a proposal before he signs on.
"We're all in favor of the concept provided all the pieces can fall together, and it isn't going to end up costing us twice as much," Finlayson said.
"There are certainly going to be some hefty costs for space and equipment," Finlayson said.
Finlayson said the dispatch centers are all looking at upgrades anyway to meet new federal guidelines, so it makes sense to examine the options now.
Orem Police Chief Mike Larsen said he is willing to look at the possibilities and the feasibility, but he is not making any commitment.
"It would have to be better than it is and not cost more," Larsen said. "Right now, my dispatchers and my police and fire people all know each other and understand each other. They know the layout of the city. I don't want to lose that or make it less user-friendly."
Larsen said Orem's dispatch center doubles as the telephone/reception center for the community, so if the dispatch is moved out, Orem will need to replace that service.
"I'm not in favor of a central dispatch if its going to cost us more money or if service goes down," Larsen said.Front line since 1983 and still going strong
10-14-2004, 09:31 AM #2
- Join Date
- Feb 2001
Joint Dispatch Center
I have not heard the magic words, yet! Shouldn't the new center give better service and have a backup in case it goes down?
Will the fire department be able to control how their departments get dispatched or will that be determined by your police agencies? Don't make fire the stepchild in this joint service! If you think that it will save money in the beginning, you need a better crystal ball. The savings are 5 to 10 years down the road in cost avoidance. How will it be paid for, I assume it will be on the county tax role and everyone will pay the same? That is the only way that I would agree to it, if I were you!
Otherwise, good luck. I hope you have success in your efforts. Plan well and don't miss getting the agencies on board early, so you don't have to just spin your wheels.
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