Every public safety agency relies on its local dispatch office to respond to emergency calls in a timely fashion. While the scale of these centers is obviously determined based on the needs of the area, what happens when call volume spikes over a very short time? Departments across the country have had to deal with this issue due to unique factors affecting them. Overcoming spikes in activity is necessary to get these agencies back on track.
Response time effects being felt
A recent call volume increase in Lexington, Kentucky, has spurred assurances from the local dispatch center that the team is not understaffed and is constantly in the process of hiring more personnel. According to The Messenger-Inquirer, the incident that brought the pressure on the system to light was a fire affecting an equine center, which killed 23 horses. It took 20 minutes to dispatch the fire department to fight the blaze.
With more calls coming in, strain affects many parts of the system, from the dispatchers at the 911 center to the first responders answering the calls. Owensboro, Kentucky, Police Chief Art Ealum told the news provider that there is increased demand for resources being felt by many different parts of the public safety infrastructure. He emphasized that dispatching is a highly specified role, and it's not always possible to simply fill in new personnel immediately.
It's tough to articulate the amount of stress people deal with in dispatch," Ealum told the The Messenger-Inquirer. "Some people think it's answering phones, but it's more than that."
Many causes for call volume spikes
There are numerous factors that can, directly or indirectly, lead to spikes in 911 calls and dispatcher staffing requirements. For instance, New London, Connecticut, paper The New Day recently pointed to a rise in elderly residents in the town of Montville as the main cause of a 200-call year-over-year rise in emergencies.
The news source noted that in the average month, approximately 30 elderly residents require assistance after a serious fall. These kinds of risks may not be apparent without a close look at a region's demographics, but they can have a very real impact on the type and amount of work handled by dispatch centers.
A vital consideration
Ensuring that response centers are properly staffed is a vital consideration for every agency around the country. Technology can be one way of maximizing staffing levels when call volumes spike. For example, public safety workforce management software that is integrated with CAD systems ensures that the right units, with the right personnel, on the right vehicles, with the right equipment are properly dispatched. Any first responder scheduling or assignment changes are automatically displayed in CAD, rather than having to be manually entered by dispatchers. As a result of the increased unit awareness and time saved, staffing resources are increased withhout additonal costs.