Regional 911 System Inching Closer To Hampshire County Communities
AMHERST, Mass (WGGB) — Long waited, new age emergency dispatching is inching closer to becoming a reality in Hampshire County. Hadley, Amherst, and Pelham Police and Fire departments have been working to create a regional dispatch center for 911 calls for about five years. Currently, each town has it’s own dispatch center in either the police of fire stations.
However, many experts think that regionalized dispatching will soon become the new norm across the Commonwealth because state regulations soon to take effect will require two 911 dispatchers on duty at all times in each dispatch center. Rather than each town pay to keep up that staffing, many communities are banding together. Hadley, Amherst, and Pelham are leading the charge in Hampshire County because they believe the team approach is best suited for their needs.
Amherst Fire Chief Tim Nelson says mutual aid assignments run between the three towns regularly. He believes it makes sense to have one central location that dispatchers are keeping tab on emergencies that could impact one another.
“It is more efficient, it’s more effective, and it’s safer. You have more folks on duty. There is a redundancy there and the chance that they are going to become overwhelmed with calls is about nil,” Chief Nelson said. “To have a one stop it means better situational awareness.”
There is state funding available to help with this transition. The entire program, when operations, just might free up some funding to be put towards other pressing issues in the towns. Nelson adds that there should not be fears over towns losing control of their resources, or big job losses.
“We want to bring everyone in and be part of the same team,” he said. “The towns don’t lose their autonomy, they don’t lose their control. One concept that we are looking at is a regional control board, something like that where they have a say.”
The next step is for a consultant to come in and help craft the set-up for the dispatch center before it takes hold in the coming year.