Fire Commission recommends change to CMED for dispatch


darien-norotonDarien is currently considering a contract that would use CMED as a dispatch service for the town’s three volunteer fire departments. CMED, which operates out of the Southwestern Regional Communication Center is already responsible for dispatching Post 53.

All three fire departments were dispatched by CMED as a part of a 30-day trial period starting May 3. Dispatch for non-medical calls is handled by the officers at the Darien Police Department, but for the purposes of the trial all calls were transferred to CMED. The trial came after a study of Darien’s emergency medical services determined that the emergency call transfer used by the police could be more efficient.

During Monday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, representatives from Darien’s Fire Commission said the trial was a success, with CMED’s services providing more support in certain situations. Call reports released by CMED dispatchers were said to be more detailed than those delivered by the police department, containing more information about the nature of the incident and emergency response times.

Furthermore, allowing CMED to handle dispatch for both Post 53 and the volunteer firefighters has improved communication between the separate entities, as the dispatcher can continue relaying information between medical and fire responders. Under Darien’s existing emergency call system, there could be a significant time difference between the dispatch of Post 53 and the fire departments, and they are unable to communicate to one another via radio.

Another clear benefit of the shared dispatch system has highway response. McGrath Consulting noted that Post 53’s response times to I-95 skewed their average response times due to the amount of time it took for fire responders to reach the scene. Firefighters are needed to help block off traffic when an accident occurs on the highway, but the due to the time difference in their dispatch, the fire crews were arriving significantly later than Post 53.

Using CMED the calls are made at nearly the same time, and dispatchers can also communicate with state police. It was said that CMED dispatchers can also use the Department of Transportation’s cameras to help find the exact location of an emergency along the interstate.

The Fire Commission recommended the town enter into a one-year agreement with CMED, with options to renew for up to three years. The trial period with CMED was judged based on a list of 10 criteria which included markers for consistency, accuracy and compliance. During the month of May, CMED made five errors over a total of 48 calls. Those mistakes were said to be related to street names in the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system.

“We would also recommend them to continue dispatching for one year per their contract and we will revisit to see if we will continue with South Western Communications services for the years to come,” a letter from the Fire Commission read.

A transfer of $51,000 from the town’s contingency fund was approved by the Board of Selectmen with a unanimous vote on Monday night. The Board of Finance will also have an opportunity to review the transfer later this month.

Costs for the adoption of CMED for fire dispatch are not set in stone; the town has a pre-existing agreement with CMED for Post 53 and Selectmen Rob Richards questioned whether a discounted rate could be available due to the increased call volume. Darien already possesses the necessary infrastructure to implement CMED, preventing any startup costs as well.

First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said the decision to use CMED For dispatch may be ahead of a state initiative for regionalized dispatch centers, which she said received a major push earlier this year. Selectman Susan Marks said she was unconvinced about the value of CMED prior to Monday’s meeting, but hearing from the Fire Commission clarified the benefits of the dispatch system.

“It was very beneficial for the three of you guys to be here, because when I read this I was a long way away from voting,” Marks said. “If you’re ever questioning whether it’s worth it to come to a meeting — it’s 100% worth it, because you have definitely gotten me to a yes.”


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