Earlier in the week, I was joined by Franklin Town Administrator Jeffrey Nutting and Fire Chief Gary McCarraher, to testify before the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security regarding House No. 2189, an Act establishing a district to operate a regional public safety communications and dispatch center for the Towns of Franklin, Norfolk, Plainville and Wrentham.
The bill would allow the Towns of Franklin, Norfolk, Plainville and Wrentham, through their respective town council and boards of selectmen, to enter into a written agreement for the purpose of establishing a district to construct, equip, operate and maintain a consolidated regional public safety communications and dispatch center.
Combining the dispatches for all of the towns will improve the response times, save taxpayer dollars, and make the citizens of the region safer. The bill would also give the towns quicker access through joint resources. Dispatchers at a regional center will have state-of-the-art tools and the latest technology. Rather than facing the numerous distractions in a typical police station, the dispatchers in the regional center can focus exclusively on taking calls and alerting first responders. The consolidation of resources and enhanced technology will allow dispatchers to stay on the line with a caller during an emergency—providing CPR instructions, for example—while another dispatcher follows through with lining up the response resources. And the dispatchers will receive training that will get them up to, and keep them at, professional standards set by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials-International. In short, the center will offer amenities that communities couldn’t afford by going it alone.
The bill mirrors Chapter 156 of the Acts of 2010 which established a regional dispatch center for the towns of Cohasset, Hingham, Hull & Norwell. Regional dispatch centers have also been formed in Essex County. The state encourages communities to regionalize emergency dispatch centers because it allows cities and towns to cut the cost of providing those services to residents. It also is a more efficient way of providing the service.
Franklin, Norfolk, Plainville and Wrentham have already been provided with grant money through the State 911 Department Regional and Regional Secondary PSAP and Regional Emergency Communication Center Development Grant program to complete construction of the center and fund operations for three years, but they are unable to proceed without legislative approval of this bill. The State 911 Department supports the development and startup of regional and regional secondary PSAPs and regional emergency communication centers, to maximize effective emergency 911 and dispatch services as well as regional interoperability.
The bill was reported favorably out the committee and now moves onto the House Committee on Bills in Third Reading before it can get to the House floor.