Centralized fire dispatch agreement awaits Lompoc's approval

The Lompoc Fire Department is the last of several fire departments in the county to approach its City Council about a potential regional fire-centric dispatch center, Lompoc Fire Chief Alicia Welch said. 

“All the other cities are moving toward the regional center, and Lompoc is moving tonight to vote to get on the agreement also,” Welch said on Nov. 2. “We hadn’t had a fire chief in the seat for two years, we had an interim chief. … The city was waiting for me to get here to analyze the partnership, and we just happened to be last.”

click to enlarge Centralized fire dispatch agreement awaits Lompoc's approval
EFFICIENCY : The new dispatch center comes with automated vehicle locators, which will help dispatchers see where trucks are located to send the right resource to the right call in the right time frame, Lompoc Fire Chief Alicia Welch said.

In 2019, the Santa Barbara County, Santa Barbara city, Santa Maria, Guadalupe, and Montecito fire departments approached their corresponding government officials about the center, she said. 

If Lompoc City Council approves the five-year agreement during its Nov. 2 meeting (which took place after the Sun went to press), it will result in a more efficient and more affordable call process, according to Welch. The proposal will cost an estimated $332,000 per year—Lompoc’s current dispatch costs are about $515,000—and the Santa Barbara-based regional center will have a backup center in Santa Maria for power outages or technical failures, Welch said. 

“It puts more fire dispatch folks on the floor than we currently have. There’s two in the city of Lompoc. In the regional center there will be four every shift, and the dispatchers will have fire-centric expertise,” she said. 

Santa Barbara County currently has seven dispatch centers operated by city police departments and the Sheriff’s Office. A universal center will create a team of dispatchers focused on fire-related responses, Welch said. 

“The different dispatching resources in the county aren’t using the same call-typing right now. If you call 911 and say, ‘My child is choking,’ each of the dispatch centers might process that call differently,” Welch explained. “One of us might send an engine and an ambulance, another might just send an ambulance alone, and that doesn’t lend for consistency. We want to get on the same page for typing those calls and what types of resources are needed.” 

Currently, not all of the centers have the ability to give callers instructions until emergency resources can get to the scene, and the regional center will give its dispatchers the same skill set for giving pre-arrival instructions, Welch said. 

One dispatch center also removes the jurisdictional boundaries that currently exist, she pointed out. 

“If we can centralize where fire-related EMS services are coming from, dispatchers can send the closest appropriate resource,” she said. “All of our fire departments have boundaries around us, but what we are trying to do with this regional dispatch center is have the closest fire station to the problem handle the problem whether it’s in the county or the city and get the best customer service we can.” 

The program develops a mutual aid backup system; if one fire department is responding to a call in the city and another call occurs within the same area, one of the neighboring fire services can step in, Welch said. 

“It gives us a more robust backup coverage that we don’t currently have in place right now,” she stated.

“It’s a change; it’s different from what we’ve done in the past, but it’s a best practice in the law and EMS world,” Welch continued. “It’s good that the county of Santa Barbara and the agencies are looking to be more progressive and get on board with a regional approach that keeps us all in the same center to provide a better service for our customers.” 

If the project moves forward, the regional dispatch center agreement will go before the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors on Nov. 16, and the project is set to start in 2024. 

Comments (0)
Add a Comment