News : Vermont Prepares for 911 Call Center Consolidation
Rutland, VT, USA, Aug 4, 2015 -- Starting in September, four statewide public safety answering points or PSAPs will consolidate down to two. At that point, 911 calls will go through either Rockingham or Williston and then they will dispatch emergency response teams. Some Vermonters are worried that nonlocal dispatch services could mean longer response times as well as problems locating people in need.
In Rutland County there's been talk on how to ease those worries.
After it was announced that four state 911 call centers would be consolidated down to two, people throughout Vermont voiced their concerns, the biggest being time and safety.
"I would hope they would be there as quickly as possible," said Wendy Aleksiewicz.
PSAP centers in Rutland and Derby will close on or around Sept. 15 this year and 911 calls will go through centers in Rockingham and Williston.
Public Safety Commissioner Keith Flynn says the consolidation plan is a cost-cutting measure by the state.
"That's using tax payers' dollars in a smart way," Flynn said last month.
A 911 call can be picked up anywhere. Once a call comes in, the call-taker stays on the line with the caller and simultaneously contacts the appropriate emergency service to respond.
For Sheriff Steven Bernard of Rutland County, the issue is knowing where to go.
"When the commissioner and the governor announced that they were going to be consolidating PSAPs, local fire, EMS and police guys got together and said this system being dispatched out of Rockingham isn't going to work for us," said Bernard.
He proposes that his department operate a county dispatch center to replace the one being lost to the state consolidation plan. It will not be a 911 call answering center. It's local people with local knowledge receiving the information sent from a 911 call center and then dispatching appropriate services from a local office.
"It is better to have local dispatchers that are able to understand the needs you have. Plus you work with them every day so when you call them, they know what you're talking about, they send you someplace and you have any trouble at any time maybe the GPS doesn't fit the description, they're able to make sure you get to that area because they understand the area in most cases," said Jim Finger, Regional Ambulance Service.
Regional Ambulance Service takes care of about two-thirds of Rutland County. They have their own dispatch answering emergency calls, but if someone is not there to pick up, the call goes to Vermont State Police. Finger says that having a dispatcher closer to home would be better for their patients.
"The partnership will be that we would like it to be quality and we want to be able to improve on the dispatch that we currently have if possible. And at a lower cost than what may be in the future," said Finger.
But that's the issue, funding. If the new dispatch center is approved, Bernard says the center would cost approximately $790,000 its first year. A county tax would need to be collected to fund it.
"Forty dollars a year to get local knowledge and local dispatch and to be able to have the service that the fire and the EMS guys want is a cheap price," said Bernard.
Right now, Rutland City Police Department has its own dispatch center sending out police and fire services, but not ambulatory. Police Chief Dave Covell says opening the new dispatch center would not impact their work.
But the sheriff's department, the city police, and the regional ambulance service agree quickly and efficiently responding to an emergency is the number one priority.
Bernard says he's looking to gain more interest from departments in Rutland County. He says the more towns involved, means a lower tax rate for the county.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About Rutland County:
Rutland County is a county located in the U.S. state of Vermont.
Published: Thursday, August 6, 2015