By Mike Fischel, ENP - Vice President, Business Development
Last month, I had the pleasure of talking to a group of public safety communications professionals from New England and New York about 9-1-1 and dispatch center consolidation at the Atlantic Coast Association of Public Safety Communications Officials Conference . This is an important and growing issue in the public safety field because of the challenges that 9-1-1 and centers face to improve service, coordinate services, and achieve cost efficiencies in the face of a difficult economy, new technologies, and a growing expectation from the public about the capabilities of the “9-1-1 System” to protect life and property.
The expertise of our staff members have lead us to believe that 9-1-1 consolidation initiatives can provide significant benefits to the public, telecommunicators and first responders if approached in the right way.
These initiatives typically are comprised of three phases: Feasibility Study, Implementation Planning, and the actual transition to consolidated operations. The feasibility study phase is a critical step in any initiative because it examines current operations, service, cost, technologies, and facilities in order to determine options, requirements, political environment, and will to support a consolidation among potential municipalities and/or agencies. This study usually is the basis for making decisions regarding the practicality to move forward with detailed planning for the consolidation of 9-1-1/dispatch centers.
If the decision is made to move forward with a consolidation, there are several key requirements that are essential to the planning process. They include development of a governance agreement that addresses authority, control, and policies for the consolidated organization. A funding approach will be required to establish the source of funds to establish the new organization and its continued operations. Service offerings and levels of performance must be established. Staffing and human resources including pay, benefits, position classifications, training, and quality assurance programs must be determined. Finally facility and technology requirements must be specifically defined and secured.
In our work supporting these initiatives, we have found there are some common lessons to be considered.
- First, consolidation initiatives based solely on the expectation of saving money are not typically successful. Successful initiatives are more often based on the desire to improve service, capacity, coordination, and interoperability among agencies and municipalities.
- Another important lesson is that leadership and program management established early in the consolidation process is a key predictor of a successful consolidation process.
- Finally, we have found it is helpful to view a consolidation initiative as a once in a lifetime opportunity to establish an organization and program of services that will bring substantial improvement to the delivery of emergency communication services to the public and first responders.
To discuss consolidation further, sign up for our webinar to be held November 10.