Wednesday, April 23, 2014

PSAPs and dispatch centers

A PSAP is a public safety answering point--the place where a call to 911 is actually answered. Although most PSAPs are also dispatch centers (the places where dispatchers communicate via radio with units in the field) the reverse is not always true: dispatch centers are not necessarily PSAPs.

Here in Lancaster County, we have a single PSAP: the City of Lincoln's Emergency Communications Center, which is the largest single unit of the Lincoln Police Department. Our PSAP is also the dispatch center for most of the public safety agencies in Lancaster County, including Lincoln Fire & Rescue, Lincoln Police, Lancaster County Sheriff, and several of the rural fire districts.

In some circumstances, however, the PSAP and the dispatch center are two different entities.  In Lincoln, for example, both the Nebraska State Patrol and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police have their own dispatch centers, but these are not PSAPs. If the Lincoln PSAP gets a 911 call that requires the State Patrol or the University Police, we pass that information along the old-fashioned way: pick up the phone and call. I'm sure they get plenty of direct phone calls, just not 911 calls.

In the news this week has been a plan by the Nebraska State Patrol to consolidate some of their dispatch centers around the State to Lincoln, starting with a center in Norfolk, NE. This plan makes sense to me. The savings from consolidation are great, and I believe these can be realized without any significant downside. This has no impact on the function of PSAPs around the state, because the State Patrol dispatch centers are not PSAPs: 911 does not ring at these centers. From a technical standpoint, in this day and age the dispatch function does not necessarily need to be in the same neighborhood as the patrol units.

The article notes that the State Patrol's Norfolk dispatch center handled 20,000 calls for service of the Patrol's total of 195,000 statewide. Lincoln's Emergency Communications Center handled 472,032 telephone calls last year, which resulted in 294,151 dispatched incidents for police, sheriff, and fire & rescue units here in Lincoln and Lancaster County. I couldn't find the Douglas County (Omaha) 911 Center data online this morning, but my guess is we are around half their volume, maybe less.

By the way, Public Safety Telecommunicator's Week just wrapped up. Support your local dispatchers, the first first responders.  And if you're in the market for a public safety career where every shift is different and you get the chance to serve others in your community every day--sometimes in dramatic fashion--don't forget this one.


Steve said...

In this electronic age, I would think there would be apps that would allow a person to call a psap asap.

Anonymous said...

And it's all suspetable to the whims of a pin in arkansas, routing and timing swithes at Windstream....! Scary business

Anonymous said...

Sometimes private sector services are the only viable option as tax payers can't afford infinite tech expenditures that continually evolve. Windstream, Verizon, etc...have the capital to make it possible.