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9-1-1 call centers to consolidate

by Judy Reed

Those who have called 9-1-1 in an emergency and been rerouted to another jurisdiction know the frustration of having to repeat information to more than one dispatcher. It seems like precious time slipping away, especially when someone’s life is at stake. But that will change early next year.

The Kent County Dispatch Authority (KCDA) announced this week that the 9-1-1 emergency call-taking centers would be consolidated from five to two. Both the Kent County Sheriff’s Office and the City of Grand Rapids will sign contracts to become Public Service Answering Points, and will act as one virtual dispatch center, with each backing the other up.

Under this consolidation plan, the KCDA will be responsible for providing countywide 9-1-1 answering services using a countywide Computer Aided Dispatch System (CAD) and interoperable mobile computers. These systems send critical information about the emergency service request to the appropriate emergency responder. Consolidation would eliminate delayed responses due to transferring the call to multiple jurisdictions.  All 9-1-1 calls in Kent County would be routed to one of these two PSAPs. For instance, cell phone calls are currently routed through the Michigan State Police and then rerouted to the correct jurisdiction.

The change is expected to be operational in the first quarter of 2011.

According to Cedar Springs Police Chief Roger Parent, the new system will enhance how calls are funneled to them, and residents can expect the same quality service they’ve come to expect. “It’s a good, positive move, part of a bigger picture, with a lot of changes happening,” said Parent.

He noted that as technology changes, it sometimes adds to the cost of running individual departments. For example, the Mobile Data Computers that the Cedar Springs Police use in the cars will have to go wireless by early next year because they won’t be compatible with the new system. “It has to do with the way data is handled between the patrol car and the dispatch center. We’ll get faster, better coverage,” said Parent, but noted that it will add about $2,000 per year to the police budget for air cards. He explained that they would be able to do more in the car with air cards, such as accident reports. “The county went to both e-tickets and e-accident reporting,” he said.

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