PREBLE COUNTY — After a delay which pushed it back several months, the dispatch consolidation between the City of Eaton and Preble County is expected to go live in May of 2019.
According to Sheriff Mike Simpson, the delay was caused by an ongoing data conversion and a surge in contracts.
The dispatch consolidation is an agreement between the City of Eaton and the Preble County Board of Commissioners to combine the two current dispatch centers into one. To Sheriff Simpson, the consolidation into one dispatch center is necessary, as the two centers are currently understaffed. This will allow the county to have one fully staffed center and allow for greater safety for all residents.
Once this transition takes place, there will be an updated 9-1-1 system and updated CAD everyone will use. The City of Eaton and Preble County will share their information for the first time in history — meaning both reports and booking information will be readily accessible between the city and the county.
“I think this dispatch consolidation [is important] just for allocation of resources. God forbid we ever have a major incident in the county or the city. The ability for a single dispatcher to manage a large emergency is impossible. This allows both entities to put our resources together and try to have one really good center. I think that is really good for everybody,” Simpson said.
Once complete, the center will have 10 full-time dispatchers, a supervisor, and three part-time dispatchers. There will always be a minimum of two dispatchers working first shift, during the evening shifts there will be three dispatchers working at any given time.
One addition will be mobile access to data. This is something that neither the Sheriff’s Office nor Eaton Police Department currently has. Once the consolidation is up and running, officers will have access to more information on their tablets when they are still in their vehicles. This will save time and will greatly enhance officer safety.
When they first started the dispatch consolidation, they were hoping for a Jan. 1, launch date. Due to the complexity of the data conversion, the launch date has been pushed back to May 1.
“When you are working with a large company, obviously we are not the only contract out there. As we went through this process and contracts got signed, that typically will push your ‘go live’ date beyond. Contracts were in place and they started reevaluating [the launch date],” Simpson said.
“At the same time, we don’t want to rush it either. We want to get it right the first time and make sure the data is good, so when dispatchers, deputies, and police officers start relying on this data, we know it is good information. I don’t want to push a project simply to meet a date, we want to make sure it is right. We are talking about public safety here, so it is important to get it right.”
According to Simpson, most of the equipment updates have been completed. The following consolidated dispatch center projects have been completed or are in process:
•All MARCS equipment needed to provide dispatching of Fire/EMS is in place and operational.
•Fire/EMS is currently using MARCS voice for communications on a daily basis. This does not include Eaton, as EPD is still using VHF.
•Pagers have been purchased and programmed for all fire/EMS unites in the county, including Eaton. They were distributed on Nov. 15 to each agency to begin distribution.
•Fire/EMS were to meet again on Nov. 28 and a “go live” date for dispatching using the new pagers will be set.
•Console is ready for programming to accept Eaton City Services and the County Engineer.
•Commissioners signed a contract with Zuercher to update the county’s 9-1-1 system. This will bring the 9-1-1 onto the same platform as the CAD/RMS. This should allow for seamless sharing of 9-1-1 information with CAD.
•Tornado siren repair/reprogramming in the county is completed. Eaton has an additional siren to repair, as Tech Electronics received a bad board. Testing is done for the year and will resume in March. They should have everything ready to go for one-tone activation in March.
•The new VHF transmitter is ready and will be installed at the Quaker Trace site as soon as they dismantle the current VHF system.
•Officials met with P&R Communications on Nov. 28 to finalize any loose ends and set date in December for dismantling VHF system.
•Both PCSO and EPD have been working through these last few months on system configuration, data entry, etc. Zuercher is in the middle of data conversion now, which can take several months.
•Commissioners are finalizing their budget, which should include funds for three additional dispatchers, effective Jan. 1. This includes the dispatcher that will come for Eaton. PCSO anticipates working on processing applications for the two remaining positions quickly, in order to get people hired and begin training.
•Staff training on the new system will most likely be scheduled for April. The Sheriff wants everyone trained and ready to go for the anticipated May 1, “go live” date that they have with Zuercher.
“Dispatching, public safety, and 9-1-1 can be very complicated to the average person who has no idea what it is about, it can be hard to explain. When you give them the highlights of what we’re doing and why we are doing it, I haven’t heard any negatives. They understand proper staffing and getting resources to them — whether it be police, fire, or EMS,” Simpson said.
“When they call 9-1-1, they don’t really care where it is going. They just want to know that they are talking to somebody at the Sheriff’s Department, we know where they’re at, and we are getting them help. In the end, it is going to be good for everyone.”
Reach Kelsey Kimbler at 937-683-4061 or on Twitter @KKimbler_RH