By Wheeler Cowperthwaite
The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass.
After two years of planning, state officials threw the switch and sent all 911 calls from the Hanover police department to the regional dispatch center in Duxbury.
Thirty minutes later, on June 30, the Hanover Fire Department was answering multiple calls.
“They didn’t miss a beat,” Regional Old Colony Communications Center Director Mike Mahoney said. “If we hadn’t told anyone, no one would be the wiser.”
The move to the Duxbury-based regional dispatch center will bring significant savings to Hanover over the next five years. The state will pay for its share of the operating costs, Mahoney said. The center also serves Halifax, Hanson, Plympton and Rochester.
The town needed to move to a regional center or buy costly new equipment as repairs to the town’s old dispatch system became prohibitively expensive, Fire Chief Jeff Blanchard previously said.
Blanchard said the transition has gone well. He expected tropical storm Elsa to bring more havoc to the South Shore, but it petered out and the town received only one or two calls.
“It was a good dry run, so to speak, for how we would interact with the regional dispatch center during a major weather event,” Blanchard said. “I think we’re confident on both ends that it’s an improvement for the residents.”
Blanchard said the changes for the fire department have been minor, mostly around how they communicate with dispatchers, and they have been preparing for months.
“The glitches on our end resolved by the time we made the transition,” he said. “All in all, it went very smoothly on our end and their end.”
He said one of the next steps for the fire department is the installation of mobile data terminals in the fire engines and ambulances — computers that will allow dispatchers to share documents, maps and pictures and allow firefighters to access their hydrological maps and pre-fire planning documents while in the field.
The terminals have been delayed by the shortage of microchips, which is having ripple effects across industries including car and appliance manufacturers.
Blanchard said the true test will be when the next big storm hits.
“When we have a wide-spread weather event that starts bringing down power lines in every town, that’ll be the true test,” Blanchard said. “They’re in a real good position to handle that, and our community is in a good position to interact with them, and I think it will be at least as good as what we had.”
Blanchard said he is confident that the dispatch center’s ability to scale up during emergencies will allow them to handle surges in calls.
Hanover Town Manager Joseph Colangelo said in an email that the transfer to the dispatch center was “quite an accomplishment.”
During the evaluations of the dispatch options, it became clear that the Regional Old Colony Communications Center was best.
“The fact that we transitioned to full service on the exact day they ‘promised’ us over a year ago is nothing short of extraordinary, validation we made the right decision, and further proof we are in good hands for a longtime to come with this partnership,” Colangelo said.
The state has been pushing for regionalization of dispatch centers and offering big incentives. The state will pay Hanover’s entire dispatch bill for the first three years, then 75 percent in the fourth year and 50 percent in the fifth year, Mahoney said.
“That’s a pretty incredible carrot on a string,” Mahoney said.
According to a report by the Edward J. Collins, Jr. Center for Public Management, the cost will be $469,677 for the first two years.
Three Hanover dispatchers took new jobs at the regional site, which added seven full-time positions. Hanover will likely be the largest town for the regional center, in terms of calls. An additional seven people were hired to bring in Hanover to the dispatch center, Mahoney said.
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Reach reporter Wheeler Cowperthwaite at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Hanover moves its dispatching to regional center in Duxbury
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