Police & Fire Dispatch to Save $500k

A combined fire and police dispatch system will likely save Woonsocket, RI $500k annually, primarily from the reduction of eight staff positions


What Happened?

Woonsocket, Rhode Island, is finally implementing a consolidation strategy of its emergency police and fire dispatch services that has been in development since 2011. By merging the dispatch agencies over the next six months, Woonsocket expects to save more than $500,000 annually in reduced costs and increased efficiency.

The Goal

The main goal of merging the fire and police dispatch services was to cut out unnecessary spending. When the consolidation is complete, the city’s fire department staff will operate with eight fewer employees, as junior firefighters typically filled dispatch roles. The fire department will not have to let any firefighters go to accommodate the merger. Several firefighters retired or moved on and those positions were never filled.

Instead, civilian dispatchers through the police department will manage emergency personnel dispatches for both departments. The police department has been operating with a staff of nine rotating civilian dispatchers. The consolidation will bring six more hires on for a team of 15 total. At least three dispatchers will be available to residents, police and fire departments 24/7 with more employees during peak times.

The entire consolidation will result in minimal changes to how either department is organized or operates. The city will spent about $720,000 in one-time fees to provide the necessary resources to accommodate the larger dispatch team at the police department.

Aside from basic office equipment and new hires, Woonsocket will purchase a $400,000 radio system to enable police and fire emergency teams to operate interchangeably, while providing the offices with data recording and data networking capabilities. Four terminals will house computer systems monitoring police and fire activity for increased oversight and safety.

911 Consolidation

In Illinois, several suburbs have opted to invest in a consolidated off-site dispatch service to reduce costs while maintaining high levels of safety for residents. Lake Bluff officials approved the consolidation proposal just one week after Lake Forest and Highland Park passed the same measure. Glenview is currently reviewing the strategy and will likely join the other cities. By consolidating the 911 services:

  • Lake Bluff expects to save almost $1 million over the next seven years while optimizing new and improved technology to enhance public safety
  • Highland Park projects $78,000 in annual savings for the first five years of consolidation, coming to $120,000 over the next 10 years
  • Lake Forest estimates savings of $1.8 million over the next five years
  • Together, the three cities hope to reduce 911 costs by $4.5 million by 2019

Despite the significant savings projections reported by each city, police and fire officials are emphasizing the technological gains the consolidation will bring. By investing in the up-to-date system that reduces the number of dispatchers needed, cities will enjoy more efficient delivery of services which will improve public safety initiatives. This was explained to residents to calm any fears that the quality of public safety services would suffer under the consolidated delivery model.

Gains in Teamwork

Gov1 has followed consolidation success stories nationwide, several being funded by state or federal grants.