Jackson County dispatchers may move to one location

By Gus Bode

Program would result in faster emergency service, information

When police agencies in Jackson County consolidate their 911 emergency dispatchers, the University police telecommunicators will no longer have to answer calls in the bathroom when they are on duty alone.

The program could soon combine SIUC dispatchers with those in Murphysboro, Carbondale and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, and all the 911 calls in Jackson County would go to one location.

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Pat Lustig, director of Jackson County 911, said a feasibility study in November 2001 found that combining public safety answering points into one location would be more economical and efficient.

“By consolidating, you would have a single point of contact,” Lustig said. “You have better supervision. None of the agencies have 24-hour supervision right now where there is actually a frontline supervisor in place to answer questions.”

Another issue is response time. Sam Jordan, director of the department of public safety, said the six full-time telecommunicators who work at SIUC cannot dispatch an ambulance. Instead, medical emergency calls are transferred to the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department.

“The concept is that if you consolidate, it should reduce the amount of response time so there’s not a need for transferring calls,” Jordan said. “The idea is that if we consolidate that function, then you wouldn’t need the redundancy of all that equipment that it takes for telecommunication purposes.”

The program should save money in every department, Lustig said. Right now each government agency involved has signed a written commitment to support the consolidation research plan. The SIUC Board of Trustees passed its resolution Sept. 11 to support the concept.

The study indicated the consolidated emergency system would work efficiently with 25 employees, Lustig said. Officials from the four locations said their combined 29 employees would keep their jobs when they transfer to the new location.

“The administrators have taken the position that no one would lose their jobs,” Lustig said. “So if all 29 telecommunicators came over to the centralized facility, obviously each agency’s costs would increase. Their costs would go up slightly.”

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Brian Chapman, assistant for the chancellor, said depending on the cost, consolidation would help with training and obtaining grants.

“It’s going to ensure that all telecommunicators are properly trained,” Chapman said. “We currently have four different dispatch centers in the county. We will soon have one, and they will all be trained to handle calls in a similar fashion, whether it’s for police, for fire or for ambulance.”

He said consolidation would also help with sharing information and building stronger relationships with other Jackson County police agencies.

“We think that this consolidated effort may assist us in obtaining additional grants for the department of public safety because it allows us to collaborate with other departments,” Chapman said. “It opens up new avenues. When you have four separate police departments, you have four separate databases. Whenever you begin to break down the communication barriers and share your information, it helps in all sorts of ways from solving crimes to preventing crimes.

“If we know we have a problem with some individuals on campus, we share that information with others, and it will put them in a better position to respond. It’s about sharing information as well as training efforts,” Chapman said.

Lustig said a location for a structure to house all the dispatchers has not yet been chosen, but Carbondale has offered some property for the program.

“We’re now in the position to hire an architect and see what our building costs are going to be,” Lustig said. “So we can give each governmental entity the bottom line what it would cost them per year to subsidize a consolidated dispatch center. And obviously we want it to be less than what they’re currently paying. It wouldn’t be very advantageous for them to go into this and pay more than they are presently paying. We know we can do it much cheaper than what they’re doing it now.”

Jordan said security and safety are some issues that need to be explored before a location can be planned.

“All those things are being studied right now to see how much it will actually cost and will that cost be worth what you get in the way of the benefit,” he said. “The idea is to move as expediently and as appropriately as possible without getting in too much of a hurry and without doing the appropriate amount of homework.”

Reporter Lindsey J. Mastis can be reached at [email protected]

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