The concept of a regionalized emergency dispatch service for Chittenden County has been around for over 50 years. More recently, 22 years ago the State of Vermont received a grant, with the help Senator Patrick Leahy, to conduct a feasibility study for a Regional Emergency Communications Center, but the concept failed to materialize. Today, momentum is building and the idea appears to be gaining more traction among the key stakeholders in the County.
The Town of Colchester has operated a joint dispatch center with the town of Milton for the last two decades. The arrangement provides better service at a lower cost than either town could provide operating on its own.
Last year, in the interest of expanding the economies of scale, providing improved response times and service, as well as attracting and retaining highly trained dispatchers, we joined eight other Chittenden County communities to provide guidance to a consulting team that conducted an implementation study on the viability and benefits of regionalized dispatch. The results confirmed that this is an area of local government that works better on a regional scale.
The study revealed a single countywide dispatch operation would provide:
- Faster emergency services response times (up to 5 minutes, or 90 seconds on average) by co-location of 911 and dispatch
- Redundancy staffing for major emergencies
- Increased training, quality assurance, support, and career opportunities for dispatch staff
- Streamlined cross city/town mutual aid for fire, rescue and police services
- Better support for fire and rescue staff in the field
Concurrent with the implementation study, our nine communities researched options for a governance structure. It was unanimously agreed a union municipal district was our best choice. Its advantages include the ability to enact and enforce ordinances for alarms or false 911 calls, lower municipal borrowing rates with the ability to qualify for grants as a municipality, and more.
Our next step will be to create a “Joint Survey Committee,” which is required by state statutes. There will be a number of steps to follow, but it is possible that the citizens of the partnering communities will be able to vote on membership at their 2018 Town meetings. A phasing in of dispatch operations could begin as early as July 1, 2018 if there is widespread support and numerous operational challenges overcome. We’ll be keeping you informed as the process continues.
Information is available online at http://www.ccrpcvt.org/our-work/emergency-management/regional-dispatch/ If you would like more information about Regional Dispatch you may contact Aaron Frank at 264-5509.