A newly formed partnership among the Littleton, Evergreen, South Metro and West Metro fire departments and the Metropolitan Area Communications Center Authority will create the largest computer-assisted dispatch system in the state.
The new group, working under the name Jefferson-Arapahoe Consolidated CAD, will provide dispatch services for more than 1 million people across 23 cities and multiple unincorporated areas, and will handle roughly 66,000 fire and emergency calls annually.
While each department will maintain separate dispatch centers, the five agencies will be connected virtually, said Paul Smith, director of MetCon, which provides dispatch services for the South Metro and West Douglas fire districts.
The connectivity among agencies will allow a dispatcher from West Metro to see what units are available for all of the partnering agencies and where those units are located. It will also let a dispatcher directly assign units from across the network, no matter the agency, Smith said.
“Today West Metro would have to call us for resources. In nine months, when this thing is operational, we’ll see the units for West Metro, South Metro and Littleton, and we’ll know what their statuses are. We will have one giant picture,” Smith said. “When I assign that call and make a call for joint resources, those resources would automatically get called and dispatched. We’ve eliminated the additional phone calls and radio traffic.”
West Metro communications chief Michael Murphy said the virtual system makes sense given the resources shared among the agencies.
“Just, for example, if a West Metro resource is making a transport to Littleton Hospital, and Littleton has a call nearby that hospital, they can see that that unit is available. Why not send that unit?” Murphy asked. “It virtually guarantees it’s going to shave time off, because we’ve eliminated some of those roadblocks that currently exist.”
The project will cost about $1.3 million, an amount that will be split primarily between the Jeffco and Arapahoe 911 authorities. MetCom, located in Centennial, will house the servers for the system, while West Metro will house the emergency dispatch servers.
Smith said the collaboration was made possible by the departments all sharing the same type of computer-aided dispatch system. That eliminated the need to purchase new equipment, which would have driven up the price tag significantly.
“The fact that all three of us have the same CAD systems but we weren’t sharing any of the information seemed kind of silly to me,” Smith said.
Along with combining systems, the partnering agencies are working on uniform response plans and terminology to increase efficiency, Murphy said.
“Being able to reach out for units is the tip of iceberg,” Murphy said. “As you standardize all this stuff across the board, it just continues to enhance that seamlessness (of our response) with pre-plans, with maps, with unit types, with specific response plans. All this stuff starts to line up, and it’s pretty exciting.”