07/01/11 162 W - + 1 - 3 Folly Beach Backs out of Consolidated Dispatch in Charleston County, SC

Here's an interesting Post and Courier story that comes by way of the Carolinas Fire Page Yahoo group. The town of Folly Beach, in Charleston County, S.C., is backing back out of the county's consolidated emergency dispatch system. They've been members since March, when they dispensed with their own telecommunicators. Now they're going back to their own operations.

The issue they say is that the centralized system's dispatchers are unfamiliar with local residents, landmarks, and issues. There have been citizen complaints to town officials, about such issues as responsiveness to out-of-town issued cell phones.

Read the story. And discuss as desired. Do you have centralized dispatch in your county? How well does it work? (Or is that an idiotic question? Aren't they pretty much a proven success?) Here in Wake County, only a couple agencies have their own communicators centers. Town of Cary. Town of Apex. The airport. Who else?

Best comment on the website, which is responding to the question, “What’s so special about Folly Beach that a centralized dispatch can’t handle them?”

—- Begin quote —-
And what’s different about Folly? Turtle tracks, for one. Folly has a huge volunteer effort to find loggerhead nests and move them if needed, to protect an endangered species.
—- End quote ——

Really?! You have loggerhead turtles, so you need your own 911 dispatch?!
rfburns - 07/01/11 - 23:42

Since they didn’t give it much time to succeed, the issue is probably “expectations.”

When you have a large consolidated communications center, your expectations are that it answers 911 calls, dispatches the right resources to the right place in a timely manner, and that radio calls from field units are answered promptly and that the requested actions occur. Our big 911 center seems to do that quite well.

In a small town, the “911 center” which is often a single clerical person a the local local law enforcement agency, does more – smaller “personal services” that are handled in another manner in a larger community. I know one town where the “police dispatcher” is also the walk-in clerk for the PD, handles parking tickets, and even does blood pressure checks.

It’s all about expectations.
CH100 (Email) - 07/02/11 - 13:16

Chief 100, you hit the nail on the head. I have had the pleasure of teaching EMD for their new consolidated center. I’ve been there almost every other month for the last year doing classes. They have done a HUGE consolidation and they have had some hurdles, but overall they’re doing a great job. They have a very structured training/academy program, very similar to RWECC which is most successful with their academies. The problem is just as you said. The people of Folly Beach call 911 and say, “Send officer Jim to my mama’s house to fix her water heater” or “Send Jim Bob over here, Joe Bob is causing a fuss.” When a professional telecommunicator begins using standardized protocols to triage their call – they get mad. It has been their expectation for many years that they’re personally recognized and help is sent without question. Charleston utilizes all 3 NAED protocols (EPD, EFD and EMD) and everyone who calls 911 receives the same high standard of care. They don’t realize that previously they could call Folly Beach and the police secretary could take their request for assistance without giving them any pre-arrival instructions, or without consideration for the caller’s safety. No, a consolidated center isn’t as personal as having your own police dispatcher. I dispatched at Clayton PD for over 10 years part-time and loved every minute of it. But, as a citizen, I’m glad we now call 1 number for all resources, and get a standardized triage process and response. My grandfather had a syncopal episode last year and I am thankful that when my dad called 911 he received the highest standard of telephone interrogation and instructions that is available. 15 years ago that wouldn’t have happened. “What’s the problem, Ok, we’re on the way” was the way we did it, no instructions, no consideration for caller safety, no information relayed to field units other than “sick call.” You guys think of how many “sick call” patients we walked into and found in cardiac arrest 15 years ago. That doesn’t happen as frequenly now. I think if they are going to be separate, interoperability is KEY to it being workable. If they would utilize the same CAD, same radios, etc. it could work – unfortunately I don’t see that being the case with Folly Beach. As Chief 100 stated, they didn’t give it much time to prove effective.
Jason T (Email) - 07/02/11 - 16:08

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