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Combined Communications Centers

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  • Combined Communications Centers

    Combined Emergency Services Communications seems to becoming a topic of great discussion as technologies are enhanced and communications centers are faced with the realities of costly upgrades.The most difficult issues to address though are the human resource ones. What do you do with staff who are prodominately Fire, Police or EMS when you move them to a combined system? How do you resolve the issues of collective agreements, seniority, and cross training?

    Do you have any experiences to draw from? Thoughts and comments also welcome. I am interested in doing some research and am looking for any and all available information.

    The center I currently work in has been combined EMS and FIRE since 1996. I have lots of information on what worked, and what didn't work well with our experiences.

  • #2
    We are currently in the process of combining 5 dispatch centers into one. Each of the 5 centers used to dispatch for 1 small city, ranging from 1 sq mile to 12 sq miles(they each dispatched their own police/fire&EMS departments). Over the last few years three agencies combined to one, and the other two combined. When these combinations happened, little if any changes in frequencies and/or practices changed. As far as seniority goes, each member kept their original start date in communications. Our target date for the final combination is Jan 1, 2004. By then, we should have a new radio system in place that will place three of the police agencies on 1 frequency and the other two on another. There will also be one dispatch frequency and one main frequency for fire, with an addition operations frequency for the FD. The Police already have a county wide operation frequency that is in place. The FD already have multiple fireground frequencies in place as well.

    The final plan is to have, at full staff, two call takers, one radio dispatcher for all the fire agencies and two for police, (one each for each police frequency. When this final move happens, seniority will once again get combined from their original start date in communications.

    I am a peon in all of this, but I can tell you that there has been extensive planning going on for over a year on all of this. Some of the problems encountered have been the pay disparity between the dispatchers in the different agencies, and a lot of stonewalling from the "old guard" people who don't want to give up their old ways.

    While each city that is in on this are boundried by each other, call signs, and SOP's vary with each, sometimes almost opposite of each other. Some streamlining of practices and revamping of call signs had to be done, and it was an uphill battle for a lot of it.

    Good luck to you, I will try to update you on other problems we encounter.
    leather forever
    gateway fools


    • #3
      I work in a center that was combined almost 21 years ago. The original personnel were civilian dispatchers with the Sheriff's Dept, and spent time working at the City PD and FD learning their dispatch procedures. (At the time, the PD was using dispatch as a light duty and/or discipline position, and the FD had to dedicate 1 FF per shift to man the phone & radio.) By the time the center opened in January of '83, all personnel were civilian, and had been trained on each of the positions. The City FD did send a dispatcher over to sit with our personnel for the first couple of months, but, by the time I started in May of '83, we were doing all our own training in-house.

      We didn't have the problems that you (and many others) have with different pay scales, seniority rights, procedures, etc. But, after 20 years here, I can say that this is the way to go. We are not a part of any of the agencies we serve, so we are in the position of being able to develop our department as we deem appropriate. We are very proud of the professionalism of our personnel, something that may not have been possible without our independence and our ability to handle all the emergency services agencies in our county.

      When I started, we had 2 dispatchers per shift, and tried to have a 3rd on whenever possible. We had an Administrator, Secretary and 1 Supervisor. Today, we have 4 dispatchers on at all times, with a 5th on all 2nd shifts (3PM-11PM) and certain times on the other shifts. We still have the Administrator position and Secretary, but have added a Clerk and 4 Supervisors, as well as absorbing the Emergency Government office with its Coordinator, Clerk and Intern.

      If you are ever in the La Crosse, WI area, please let me know and stop in for a visit. We really enjoy sharing our center with visitors. Also, if there is anything you think I might be able to do for you, please let me know. (And if you don't know if I could, ask anyway - you never know!)

      Best of luck with your merger! I know it will be well worth the effort.
      Joe O'Keefe


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