Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Vital Communications

One of four Dispatch workstations

If all goes as expected this Thursday morning the Joint Capital Planning Committee will approve about $3 million in spending for equipment replacement and building repairs that will still require Town Meeting approval, but is usually 100% ratified.

With it's annual budget of $650,000 a capital request of $110,000 for equipment replacement may sound like a lot but without the Communication Center working properly our $9 million Police and Fire departments would be flying blind.

Currently Station Officer can't interact as well with officers in the field or trace their location

The four dispatch workstations and a 5th new fully functional station for the downstairs "Station Officer" will replace an outdated system using Windows XP installed in 2006. The town purchased the system from Motorola for $200,000.

 HP computers are left on 24/7 now for fear of not rebooting

Radio console system being replaced at 5 workstations

The current system has internal clocks that do not always sync properly to the actual time, does not always record incoming calls for instant playback (although a redundant back up system does) and is not compatible for two-way conversation with UMass dispatch. 

In addition to fixing those problems the new system will have digital capabilities and allow for additional channels should the need arise.  

 911 system:  screen on left gives name and address of caller, screen on right maps location

Communication Center Director Mike Curtin tells me at some point over the past three years every one of the five stations targeted for replacement has failed.  And sometimes it can take up to two weeks to get a station properly repaired.  

 Separate station monitors town buildings via automated alarms

The Dispatch center is nothing if not busy, handling 80,000 phone calls on the business line and 7,000 on the 911 emergency line last year with a total staff of only 12.

Left screen CAD narratives/records, middle screen keeps track of on duty first responders, right screen shows license plate info, wants and warrants

The two new dispatchers hired recently had to undergo 60 hours of training, but overall 70% of staff are at the top step for pay scale, meaning they are well experienced.  Typically the center has two dispatchers on duty, one for police and the other for fire.

This much needed overhaul would also be beneficial should Amherst ever regionalize dispatch operations, although that is not looking as promising as it once did.

At a recent Finance Committee meeting Chief Livingstone said, "I don't see it happening soon.  It's not dead yet, but we have to convince Hadley."

3rd floor, APD headquarters, 111 Main Street.  The eyes and ears of first reponders


Anonymous said...

Amherst has the best dispatchers around!

Anonymous said...

do the dispatchers use gis for anything?

Larry Kelley said...

The state will be paying for an incoming 911 system that will use both GIS and GPS extensively.

Anonymous said...

Yes.. we currently have the use of the town provided GIS system which is separate than our 911 system, the state also has one too that will be integrated with the 911 System upgrades when they come out.
J Rushford
Amherst Comm Center