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News : Connecticut Launches New 911 Dispatch Center
Danbury, CT, USA, March 2, 2015 -- The city's much-anticipated transition to a civilian-manned 911 dispatch center will be complete on Monday.
And while city leaders have faith that the new system will not only save money but be more efficient, there is no need for Danburians to flood the center with calls on Monday to see just how well it works, the mayor said.
"What the public out there can count on is quicker response times because all the calls will come directly in here," Boughton said Friday during a tour of the Western Connecticut 911 Communications Center at police headquarters.
"We were quick before, but we really had to overreach to be able to do that," he said. "This is a lot more efficient."
The money-saving move toward privatization ends Danbury's distinction as one of the few places left in the country where police and firefighters still dispatch 911 calls. It it also the first step toward regionalization of emergency dispatch, which the state has been pressing local governments to undertake.
With change, of course, comes culture shock, said T.J. Wiedl, the city's fire chief.
Instead of 911 calls coming into both police and the fire departments, all calls will be routed to the new dispatch center on the third floor of police headquarters.
The centralization of the call center is expected to save the city each year in the fire department budget. The use of civilians in the call center will free three Danbury police officers from dispatch duty. They will go back to patrol, Boughton said.
"This is something we have talked about doing for 40 years," said Boughton, adding that police headquarters was constructed five years ago with the central 911 call center in mind.
Plans didn't become serious until four years ago when the transition was negotiated into union contracts, and city began hunting for a vendor to supply trained dispatchers.
The city's choice of vendor, Princeton, N.J.-based IXP Corp., hires and trains local dispatchers.
Tracy Frinton, a shift supervisor, is a former Danbury police officer, for example.
"There is plenty of experience here," she said. "You are not going to lose any institutional knowledge."
Civilian dispatchers such as 28-year-old Kyle Turner of Danbury have been training with police officers and firefighters since October.
"I used to work in customer service, which helps when it comes to being able to interact with people over the phone," said Turner, a volunteer firefighter with the Wooster Hose Company in Danbury.
Sitting at a call station with eight large monitors curved in front of him like a baseball backstop, he said the latest computer-aided dispatching technology allows him to see where all of his fire trucks are in real time.
"Being able to see where your units are, and their status, is definitely important and makes our job as dispatchers easier," he said. "This is a move in the right direction for the city."
His station has two keyboards, two mouses, two telephones and one covered coffee mug. There are seven other stations like his, evenly spaced in the clutter-free call center -- enough capacity for the center to grow.
The city has seriously contemplated a regional call center in Danbury since 2011. At that time, neighboring towns balked in part because the city had not yet consolidated its own call centers.
"The next step is in a year or two we will try to market this center to other communities," Boughton said. "Eventually this will pay for itself, we think."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Tuesday, March 3, 2015