NH Fire, EMS, police consolidate communication center
New dispatch system will send information to tablet computers in rigs
By Melanie Hitchcock
The Union Leader
BEDFORD, N.H. — A new, state-of-the art communications center for the Bedford Police Department is in its final stages of construction — it is slated for completion within the week.
According to Police Chief John Bryfonski, the center includes a new design, new equipment and even new furniture, all designed to maximize the time of communications staff, improve work flow and increase the coordination of communications efforts among police, fire and EMS.
"The overall goal is to ensure that we have the technology and equipment that fully utilize the staff we have," Bryfonski said in a telephone interview, noting that no new staff will be added to accommodate the changes.
"We're adding duties and responsibilities to existing staff," he said.
Bryfonski said the project is being funded by grant money that was matched by the town, as well as capital reserve funds.
One change that may not be immediately apparent to the public that will help in streamlining communications operations is the addition of a watch commander, which will be a police lieutenant stationed in the Communications Center.
"Our plan is to have a lieutenant on duty at least 16 to 18 hours a day, Monday through Friday," Bryfonski said. "You should be able to see what's going on throughout the whole town between police, fire and EMS, and a watch commander does that."
Technology will assist in streamlining operations as well, Bryfonski said.
A new phone system went live late last week, with all non-emergency calls picked up by an automated phone system, which then transfers calls to the appropriate staff.
Bryfonski said in its first 24 hours, staff saw a 45-percent drop in non-emergency calls to 911 staff.
"That's huge for them," he said.
In the command center, new furniture will provide a better configuration for up to three dispatchers. Staff will use wireless earpieces to free up their hands to be able to use computers at the same time.
"They'll be able to multi-task much more because of the equipment," Bryfonski said.
In addition to the physical changes, Bryfonski said his department will also take a look at policies and procedures, along with the fire department, to gain better management of work and activity flow.
"That will be a great assist for the communication specialists," Bryfonski said.
Fire Chief Scott Wiggin said the coordination of efforts will increase efficiency and be a benefit to the community.
"Sometimes, people will call in 15 times for the same event," he said.
In terms of technology, Wiggin said electronic dispatching through iPads will give his department more pre-planning information.
Information provided about commercial buildings, such as its layout, nearest hydrants and utility shutoffs, can give firefighters a leg up when it comes formulating a response, Wiggin said.
"The more efficient we can be when we arrive at the scene, the more we can really mitigate damage," he said.
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