Fire Department Communications
Prairie Township is in the process of looking to outsource is fire department's communications function, more commonly known as dispatching. The purpose of this effort is to provide safer and more efficient service to the Township's residents and first responders.
The Township is forced to pursue outsourcing because of the need for extensive equipment upgrades and technology upgrades, as well as staffing level shortfalls. The radios and other electronic hardware and software used by the current, in-house operation is out of date making it less effective than what is used by other departments. At the same time, Franklin County and the State of Ohio are moving toward 9-1-1 systems that can hon in on calls and texts from wireless devices, the source of a growing majority of such calls. Only certain communications centers are designed to be wireless centers and Prairie Township is far from having the capacity to be on this list. Finally, the guidelines state that there should be more than one communications tech, or dispatcher, in the facility at all times. With the Township's small scale operation, this is neither affordable, nor physically possible. The Township would be hard pressed to get its dispatching operations up to speed regarding any of these factors, let alone all three.
This is why the Board of Trustees has authorized the Fire Department and Administration to explore other options that will insure the safety of all residents and firefighters.
You may contact Tracy Hatmaker, Prairie Township Administrator at (614) 878-3317 ext. 114 to discuss any questions that you may have.
Frequently Asked Questions
When will the transition take place? What is the time table for this happening?
At this point, we do not have a concrete time frame. There are many factors to consider. These include putting an agreement with another agency in place, purchasing the necessary hardware to allow dispatching by that agency and software programming.
Why is the Township doing this?
Technology has passed us by and minimum staffing requirements are unachievable for such a small operation.
How will this affect 911 service in the Township?
Nine-one-one (911) service will actually be enhanced in a couple of ways that are beyond the reach of our current operation. First, 911 information will be automatically entered into a computer aided dispatch (CAD) software. This software will allow the run to be assigned and dispatched more efficiently and effectively. Secondly, recently available technology will allow cell phone calls to be more accurately located by the 911 center.
Will this impact run times?
Yes, it will have a positive impact. Currently, a Prairie Township Dispatcher works alone and can only process one emergency call at a time. Often, there are multiple calls at once and the dispatcher must still process those calls individually. In a modern dispatch center, there are multiple dispatchers taking calls and dispatching runs simultaneously, thus decreasing the time required to dispatch each run.
What will this cost? How much does the Township anticipate saving? What will be done with the money that is saved if there is any?
At this point, we do not know all of the costs involved. Consequently, we do not know if there will be any savings. The purpose of this project is to provide the service that our residents and firefighters deserve.
Will an outside body understand and really know the area?
Absolutely, any modern dispatch agency utilizes technology to locate each incident and assign the appropriate apparatus based on run type, location, geography, and a number of other factors. Essentially, most of the information is entered into the software during the programming stage. This reduces the amount of information gathering that the call taker and dispatcher must perform with each call.