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That is also the goal that inspired three upstate organizations to partner on a shared dispatch system designed to take mutual aid to the next level by sending the call for help directly to the organization closest to the emergency.
The 911 Communications Center in the City of Greer Police Department now communicates not only with Greer fire and police, but also with the Taylors Fire Department and the Boiling Springs Fire Department.
Planning for the joint dispatch model began in 2016 after Greer City Council approved the additional personnel for the communications center. Each organization shared the cost to hire four additional dispatchers, including a dedicated fire dispatcher.
Greer officials worked with Greenville County E911 to update CAD maps with beat areas for Boiling Springs and Taylors departments. Those two agencies previously did not have access to a CAD system. Their emergency calls were received by the Greenville County Sheriff’s 911 center, which transferred them to the respective department via phone. A firefighter from the department would then dispatch the call.
The departments developed common Standard Operating Guidelines and began training together. The agencies also switched from VHF radios to 800 mhz radios. The joint dispatch system was launched on July 26 and proved to be an immediate success as each of the agencies communicated with the same dispatch center.
During its first week, the shared center dispatched 165 calls for fire and medical services, 103 more than a typical week for the Greer Fire Department alone.
“The early results have been great,” said Josh Holzheimer, Deputy Chief of Operations for the Greer Fire Department. “We had a structure fire on August 4 and we had four engines, one rescue vehicle, one ladder truck and two battalion chiefs, en route or on scene within the first nine minutes of the incident. That means there were 17 firefighters and two command officers ready to mitigate the incident.
“We have all the necessary personnel on scene to improve life safety of our citizens, conserve their property and stabilize the incident quickly and effectively. Instead of our communication center having to make phone calls to neighboring departments, the other departments were alerted with one click of a mouse. All agencies now operate on the same radio frequencies. No more trying to figure out what channel to go to, thus increasing crew safety. Agencies are working together to make the community safer.”
The Greer Fire Department has long had a similar working agreement with the Pelham-Batesville Fire Department, including a shared station and personnel.