Law enforcement leaders met with consultants to discuss the consolidation project of the emergency dispatch 911 March 27.
Representatives from the Nodaway County Commissioners, Nodaway County Sheriff’s Department, Maryville Public Safety (MPS), Nodaway County Ambulance District, Maryville Fire Department, Nodaway County Fire Association and Northwest Missouri State University Police Department (UPD) attended the meeting led by Stacen Gross and Rey Freeman, SCG Consulting Services, Bellevue, NE, to work out the details of combining existing dispatch centers.
There are currently three dispatching centers that service the county, located at MPS, the sheriff’s department and UPD.
Gross asked questions about how the Maryville Fire Department, Nodaway County Ambulance and county fire and rescue squads were dispatched and what areas they covered. He asked about how they transferred calls, as well as the equipment, computer programs and technology all the entities use in order to gain the information he needed to make consolidation recommendations.
Currently, the sheriff’s department dispatches the ambulance and county fire and rescue squads among others and MPS dispatches the Maryville Fire Department and Polk Township Fire Department among others. For example, if someone in the city limits of Maryville calls and needs medical assistance, the call goes to the MPS dispatcher, who then has to transfer the call to the sheriff’s office, who then sends an ambulance, slowing down the process and increasing the time it takes for responders to get to the scene.
Landlines in the city are directed to MPS and landlines in the county are channeled to the sheriff’s department. Cell phones can call either location depending on towers. When dispatchers get a call, they determine if the caller needs medical attention or a fire squad and if they are located in the county or city. Then they have to transfer the call to the right center in order to get the correct responders to the location. Cell phones have been known to call 911 centers in other states, which then call MPS to report the call, to start the local transfer of calls.
The sheriff’s department also contacts MoDOT, conservation agents and the Missouri Highway Patrol for various reasons, resulting in even slower response times as calls get transferred multiple times before the proper responders are dispatched.
The sheriff’s department and the Nodaway County Fire Association representatives stated that county residents often call rescue members or deputies on their personal phones instead of calling the 911 dispatch centers to report emergencies, further slowing response times.
Each department dispatcher also handles other duties. On campus, dispatchers handle calls about the food pantry, Safe Ride, building alarms and more. MPS dispatchers work with walk-ins and have other various duties while the sheriff’s department dispatchers have duties related to the jail and inmate care, all the storm shelters in the county and other items.
A joint dispatch center would mean the workers in that center would only take 911 calls and would not cover other duties. It would cut out the transferring of calls from one location to another, resulting in faster response times. Updating the technology could allow the center to send out emergency alerts as well as the possibility of receiving 911 text messages. Also, it would allow dispatchers to send necessary backup or contact all the entities involved in an incident, decreasing confusion and increasing the safety of the responders and officers.
Additional staff would be needed for each department to handle other duties. Safe Ride has 25,000 calls a year.
The company will be looking at all of the duties each dispatcher completes, the equipment each center has and how the division of funding would happen. Possible locations include the new MPS facility that will be built in the upcoming year, the Nodaway County Administration Center and other locations.
The SCG Consulting Services duo will present a draft report of the project feasibility study by May 18 and will submit a final report in person on June 13.