What the countys consolidated 9-1-1 center might look like, and how it would be staffed and budgeted, was discussed Tuesday afternoon by members of the Curry PSAP (public safety answering point) Consolidation Committee.
The state has given counties until Sept. 1 to submit consolidation plans to the Oregon Office of Emergency Management.
The state will continue to fund PSAPs with the 9-1-1 phone tax through 2003, but only one per county.
Curry County currently has a North/Central PSAP in the Sheriffs Office in Gold Beach, and a South PSAP in the Brookings Police Department.
The consolidation committee consists of Capt. Mark Metcalf from the Sheriffs Office, Lt. John Bishop from the Brookings Police Department, Curry County Emergency Services Coordinator Mike Murphy, Rex Atwell from the South 9-1-1 Committee, Stan Hodney of the Coos Forest Patrol and Tom Taylor of the Winchuck Fire District.
Members agreed the consolidation is not only mandatory, but may turn out to be beneficial. They then began to tackle the details of where, who, and how much.
Metcalf drew a diagram of how the new center might be laid out in the basement of the Sheriffs Office.
He said a huge bonus of the facility would be its security. He said the two current centers were designed in a era when public access was more important than security.
There will be some changes, said Metcalf. My feeling is that it is for the better.
The door to a detectives office upstairs would be secured with a buzzer lock. To enter the dispatch center, people would have to be allowed into the office, down the stairs to the basement, then through another buzzer door.
Metcalf said the dispatch center would take up about 650 square feet of the basement, with another 150 square feet for a supervisors office. The two current centers add up to less than 500 square feet.
He said the state has incentive money available to facilitate consolidation. While it might not pay for a new building, said Metcalf, it should cover improvement of the basement.
He said the remodeling would require other changes. Vehicles, for example, could no longer be parked in the basement because of exhaust fumes.
As for staffing, Metcalf said the Gold Beach 9-1-1 center currently has six full time dispatchers to staff one console every hour of the year. Brookings has six full time and one part time dispatchers for one console.
Metcalf said the one console in each center would not be as efficient as two consoles in the consolidated center.
He said when an emergency call is received, the dispatcher must stay on the line until the emergency responder arrives.
Currently, that dispatcher must also continue to field all other calls to and from police, fire and ambulance units.
Also, said Bishop, dispatchers often receive more than one high-priority call at a time, and the situation is getting worse year by year.
That is why he and Metcalf recommended four console positions for the consolidated 9-1-1 center.
Metcalf said if Harbor Fire District has an emergency, for example, one dispatcher could be dedicated to handling that while another fielded all other South county calls.
At a minimum, said Metcalf, the consolidated center should staff two consoles at a time.
Speaking from his jail-staffing experience, Metcalf said it would require 10 dispatchers to staff the two consoles every hour of the year.
Plus, he said, a first-line supervisor, probably a sergeant, would be needed to run the center during the swing shift.
Metcalf said he would be available in the day, and he and Bishop could take calls at night. He said people dont realize he fields calls every night as it is.
Bishop said, Mark and myself are now the prime PSAP supervisors, but are dealing with other stuff. Weve dealt with it for years.
Thats awful, said Atwell. The public should be aware of that condition.
Murphy said, Thats true of a lot of county departments. There is no backup for us.
Metcalf said the consolidated center will be more efficient for emergency response agencies. Thats got to be a bonus.
He said the separate centers dont currently have enough staff to take advantage of what the new technology can do.
There is so much input to take care of, said Metcalf. Its overwhelming during an emergency. I often wonder why mistakes are not made. I have great respect for the telecommunicators.
Bishop said during a recent homicide, the dispatcher was inundated with calls from the police, ambulance, fire and state police agencies.
He said the same was true during an accident that injured three teens on Gardner Ridge Road.
Im so impressed, said Bishop of the dispatchers.
The committee also discussed how costs for the consolidated center would be allocated and budgeted.
Bishop researched what others had done across the state. He said some plans were too complicated.
Theyd be more complicated at budget time, he said. Lets keep the formula easy.
He said the simplest formula was to take what it cost to run the consolidated center, subtract what each city and agency gets from the state for 9-1-1, then divide the remaining cost by the number of people served.
That would lead to a per capita figure that would be multiplied by the number served in each area. The total would be what each city and agency would be charged.
That formula would have to be tweaked to make everything equitable, said Bishop.
The 13 fire districts might split a small cost, and the remaining costs would be divided between the three cities and the county, based on population.
Bishop said another formula might be to charge each agency by call, but Metcalf said from a fiscal standpoint, he would need to be able to project anticipated revenue at budget time. He said it was all rather straightforward at this stage, but would be complicated once politics entered the picture.