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Participating Jeffco agencies consolidate dispatch

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By Corinne Westeman and Deborah Swearingen

After seven years of conversation, including five years of planning, law enforcement agencies and fire departments across Jeffco are now officially dispatching through one consolidated dispatch center — Jeffcom 911 — housed at West Metro Fire Rescue.

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The final participating agencies went live last week, including Inter-Canyon Fire Protection District and other mountain fire districts.

Formally called the Jefferson County Communications Center Authority, the center provides services to eight member agencies and supports an additional 14.

Though it is a big change for agencies and dispatchers, everything remains the same for Jeffco residents.

“For our customers, they want to know when they call, they need help, they get help — whether it’s law enforcement or fire/medical,” said Jeff Streeter, executive director of Jeffcom. “So to them, they will see no change.”

Better value

The project’s initial $5 million-plus budget was primarily funded by the Jefferson County Emergency Communications Authority. The member and contributing service agencies made up the remainder of the funding. In the future, the law enforcement agencies and fire departments will cover the cost for the center’s operating budget. No new taxes were imposed on Jeffco residents in order to make Jeffcom a reality.

According to Streeter, combining dispatch services will save money for participating agencies and taxpayers.

For West Metro, Chief Don Lombardi estimates utilizing a consolidated dispatch center will save the department approximately $400,000 for this year. For Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, the savings are even higher. Sheriff Jeff Shrader said his office will save $627,000 this year.

Regardless of cost savings, however, officials say it will be a big improvement for the county.

“We know over time that dollars spent will be better used,” Lombardi said. “Our dollars are going to be much better used to provide a better service, but there is some savings for our citizens.”

Better service

Before Jeffcom, 911 calls would typically go to one of the law enforcement dispatch centers.

From there, dispatchers would gather information and determine where to send the call. With that, there was always a risk the call would drop, and if not, the caller would still have to answer the same questions multiple times, Shrader described.

Now, 18,000 monthly emergency calls are taken and dispatched out of one center, so there are no transferred calls or repeated questions.

“I truly believe that, because of consolidation, Jeffcom is safer, quicker and more efficient for life-saving calls,” Shrader said. “... Those moments matter. Two minutes is a big deal in a crisis.”

Lombardi agreed, saying the consolidation has helped streamline the operation.

“We can expedite those calls and get firefighters and paramedics on their way a little quicker,” he said.

Transitioning

Overall, transitioning dispatchers from their separate dispatching locations to the consolidated Jeffcom center has gone smoothly.

Shrader said call processing slowed down initially but has rapidly grown since.

“There are some small differences in procedures and practices. ...The (computer-aided dispatch) system is different,” Shrader continued. “It takes some time to learn, but it’s improving daily. ...We will see more efficiencies on a daily basis, especially during more significant events.”

To Streeter, who has witnessed the transition in its entirety, the fluid changeover is a testament to his hardworking team.

“That’s a tribute to all these people,” he said, looking out at staff taking calls on third floor of West Metro’s administrative building. “That’s a tribute to them, their willingness to make change, to come here, to continue to provide service for this county … It’s them.”