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System linking fire dispatch centers launches

COAST CITIES — The North County Communications Center Joint Powers of Authority (JPA) has officially gone live with its new dispatch center interoperability.The system, tested for well over a year, allows different fire dispatch centers to now technologically communicate with each other by sending out units more swiftly and efficiently. Whatever fire unit is available and closest to a call rolls out first.

“We are very excited about this,” Carlsbad Fire Chief Kevin Crawford said. “The thing we benefit most from the dispatch center interoperability are emergencies that are on the borders.”

The North County Communications Center JPA, which rents a top floor of Rancho Santa Fe Fire Station No. 1, has several cities it dispatches for with fire service. These cities include Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista, North County Fire Protection District, San Marcos, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Del Mar, Elfin Forest Volunteer Department, Rancho Santa Fe and its newest member, Pala Indian Reservation.

“We are all dispatched out of that fire dispatch center,” he said, noting that the city of Escondido still has its own communications system.

Crawford said that for Carlsbad, the new technological systems wouldn’t benefit the city as much as it would for Del Mar.

“San Diego City has its own dispatch center and Del Mar is a part of JPA,” Crawford said. “So if there is an incident in Del Mar and it took the resources in Del Mar away, and let’s say a second incident occurred in Del Mar, rather than dispatching units farther up in our zone here, our dispatch center could actually dispatch a San Diego City unit to that call.”

Still, Crawford said he has great enthusiasm for the dispatch center interoperability, because with it, the region gets smaller. And when that happens, communication gets enhanced and that’s always a good thing.

“Particularly in the fire service, we are one closed loop so what affects one agency in one part of the county will eventually trickle down to another agency, especially if it’s a large incident,” he said.

Before the dispatch center interoperability, Crawford said, in past years much of dispatcher communications was done by landline phones. This caused huge delays. Now, a computerized dispatch center can communicate with another dispatch center’s technology.

“We shaved a lot of call taking and call transferring time down so we can get our units on the road faster,” he said.

Aside from working out the technical kinks, another challenge that was overcome was fine-tuning the language between dispatch centers. An example of this was using the same wording for procedure descriptions.

Crawford pointed out that the police department in the city of Carlsbad dispatches itself and also takes its own 911 calls. The fire department, however, is on a separate dispatch system. It has to be.

“Law enforcement has a completely different language than the fire department,” Crawford said. “Both are different businesses.”

The monies used for the dispatch center interoperability came from a federal grant years ago.

Crawford said he’s delighted that the system is up and running and they are 100 percent live.

1 comment

John MacFall April 19, 2012 at 12:08 pm

I think the kudos for this system go all the way back to Chief Fox of the Rancho Santa Fe F.D., who advocated and implemented the forefather of this system decades ago, in addition to his many other innovations and ideas.

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