Barstow Completes Consolidation Of Police And Fire Dispatch Systems

BARSTOW—Effective as of Monday, February 4, municipal public safety service dispatch in this Mojave Desert city of 22,639 was consolidated.
As was resolved by the city council and the fire district’s board in June, the Barstow Police Department and Fire Protection District have now merged their dispatch functions.
Prior to Monday, the police department operated its own dispatch center and the fire department contracted with the county’s fire service dispatch system, known as Confire JPA Communications, which operates out of the San Bernardino County Communications Center in Rialto. The contract with Confire set the city back $179,000 per year.
The police department dispatch system fielded well over 33,000 calls of all type and order of magnitude in the last year. Roughly 10,000 of those were for emergency services most logically provided by the fire department. Those calls were immediately patched through to the Rialto Confire JPA communications system, which in turn reached a determination as to which of the Barstow Fire Protection District’s two fire stations would be the most logical first responder and second responder, and dispatched crews accordingly.
The Barstow Fire Protection District had been an independent district but was absorbed by the city as a subsidiary district in 2010. In June 2012, the city council, acting as the governing board for the district, voted to expand its communications and dispatch facilities and terminate the city’s contract with Confire JPA.
The changeover entailed a one-time $164,000 cost to augment the existing police dispatch center with the requisite equipment and computer software to allow for the efficient sorting of calls and the routing of a call for action to the appropriate station. The merger will in time represent substantial savings to the city.
The police department dispatch center, which previously employed six full time dispatchers, took on two more full-time dispatchers and another two part-time dispatchers. All ten have been provided with training to make them capable of dispatching in response to police, fire and medical calls and emergencies. The four new hires and training for all ten employees will cost the city an estimated $191,000 for the first year of operation.
City officials  planned on having the fire department weaned off of the Confire system by September, at which point that timetable proved to be a bit too optimistic.
By eliminating the middle call from Barstow to Rialto, officials believe response time will be improved. Coordination between the police department and fire department will be enhanced as well, officials say, and in certain cases should provide for greater safety for responders and superior response to those involved in traumatic incidents.
“We are extremely pleased with the merger as we set out to decrease response times, lower operating costs and improve the level of communication between the two departments,” said fire chief Richard Ross. “The dispatchers’ knowledge of the area combined with the additional details we will receive in the field will be invaluable to the fire department as first responders in an emergency.”
Police chief Albert Ramirez said the consolidation will serve to enhance “the level of communication between both public safety departments during critical emergencies [and] strengthen the relationship we have with the fire department.”
The dispatch center will remain part of the police department’s facilities. Two dispatchers will be in place 24 hours per day. As a consequence of the merger, the police and fire departments’ communications will be broadcast over the same frequencies.

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