In dealing with emergency situations, every second can count, and emergency communications officials in Frederick County and the city of Frederick are trying to make sure calls for emergencies are handled as efficiently as possible.
The Frederick County Board of Commissioners voted 5-0 on Thursday to approve an agreement with the city that will move dispatchers from the Frederick Police Department to the same facility on Airport Drive used by dispatchers for the county’s fire and rescue staff, Frederick County Sheriff’s Office and Maryland State Police.
The center completed a $20 million expansion in December that included new radio equipment, consoles and other items.
The agreement will create an integrated environment at the Frederick facility for taking 911 calls and dispatching emergency personnel, while allowing dispatchers for all the agencies to be present in one room, said Jack Markey, head of the county’s Emergency Management Division.
The county government operates the primary 911 center, which also serves local municipalities, although the Frederick Police Department has been a secondary answering point that can also have 911 calls routed to it, according to a county memorandum.
Calls for the Thurmont and Brunswick police departments are dispatched by the county, said Chip Jewell, head of emergency communications.
Emergency calls received by the county dispatchers for incidents in the city are currently screened by county operators for basic information before being transferred to Frederick police headquarters for officers or other personnel to be dispatched.
Transferring calls always creates the potential for delays or calls to be dropped or cut off, Frederick Police Chief Thomas Ledwell said Thursday.
“I think it is a step in the right direction toward synergistic goals and ongoing cooperations for a number of reasons,” Ledwell told the commissioners.
In the past, county dispatchers couldn’t hand off calls for Frederick until a city dispatcher was available, Markey said.
Now, the operators can take a call and the Frederick dispatchers will be right there, so they’ll be able to dispatch calls sooner, he said.
The county’s dispatch center handles about 130,000 911 calls per year, and about 300,000 non-emergency calls, Markey said.
The agreement completes a process that the county and city have been working toward since the mid-1990s, Jewell said.
Commissioners’ President Blaine R. Young (R) said previous boards of commissioners deserve credit for recognizing the importance of the project and moving it forward over the years.
“There’s a price tag that comes with that, but obviously we see the benefits,” Young said.