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Consider Groton for regional 911 service

By REID BURDICK

Publication: The Day

Published February 11. 2014 4:00AM

In considering the consolidation of emergency dispatch services to save money, New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio should consider taking a look across the Thames River.

New London is exploring joining East Lyme in a consolidated dispatch center operating out of Waterford, which is certainly a first-class operation. Groton, however, has been doing community dispatching since the 1980s and has a state-of-the-art facility with equipment already in place to expand operations. Its dispatch operation is managed by a bright and capable staff worthy of consideration.

As for the river boundary, it makes little difference where you answer the phone anymore with today's technology. With wide use of cellphones, I suspect Waterford and Groton already answer many calls for New London. It is not my point to impugn the radio technology expertise of the mayor's appointee examining regionalization, but no deal should be struck until a discussion takes place with Groton's experts and cost comparisons are made. It is certainly not too late.

It seems to me, if a community is looking for a different way to do business, it would make sense to talk to someone who is already doing what you need to do and who does it well. Consider the facts based on data from July 1, 2013, through the end of September 2013.

New London answered 4,483 emergency calls, 98.4 percent in less than 10 seconds. It took New London between 10 to 20 seconds to answer another 1.4 percent, while 5 took between 20 to 30 seconds to answer. It looks like it took New London somewhere between 40 and 50 seconds to answer one call and had another that took more than a minute. This does not reflect on staff quality, training or capability, rather the lack of staff at critical times.

Waterford had 2,623 calls for the same period. Of that number 99.4 percent were answered in less than 10 seconds. Another 12 took between 10 and 20 seconds to answer.

East Lyme had 1,024 calls for the same period and 98.2 percent were answered in less than 10 seconds. Another 15 took between 10 and 20 seconds and another two took between 20 to 30 seconds.

By comparison, Groton answered 4,762 emergency 911 calls. Of that number, 99.7 were answered in less than 10 seconds. Another 0.3 percent were answered in less than 20 seconds. Groton historically has among the highest, if not the highest, percentage of 911 calls answered in less than 10 seconds in the state with an overall 911 answer time of 3.4 seconds.

Regional dispatching is a very wise concept for many reasons, but New London can save money by considering all proven possibilities and not just one. Please mayor, before any deal is struck to regionalize emergency dispatching, consider all options.

Reid Burdick was formerly the director of emergency management for New London.

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