City looking into 9-1-1 changes

Soon Chelsea residents might be dialing up Revere when they make an emergency 9-1-1 call.

City Manager Jay Ash said the City is weighing a plan to regionalize the 9-1-1 dispatch center, combining efforts with Winthrop and Revere.

Already, Revere has gone forward with the purchase of more than $1 million in updated dispatching equipment and software, and Winthrop is apparently ready to sign on with Revere. The new Revere Police Station would be the centralized location for the service, and apparently there is a great deal of state grant money available if all three communities join forces.

However, Chelsea is much more advanced right now in their dispatching than Revere and Winthrop, and joining forces might not be as advantageous for Chelsea as it is for the other two communities.

“We are looking at whether we should join the Revere and Winthrop effort to do a regional collaborative and we’re also looking at a larger collaborative that would include multiple communities including Revere and Winthrop and others in the region,” said Ash. “We’re very happy with our current 9-1-1 system, but we do see there are advantages of doing something bigger.”

Over the years, Chelsea has invested significant money in dispatching technology and already has an Emergency Management Service in effect. Winthrop is very far behind in that regard, typically using a police officer or firefighter to answer their calls. Meanwhile, in Revere, the dispatch is divided between the police and fire departments, and the system is extremely antiquated and inefficient.

So, while those two communities would gain significantly, Chelsea could actually be taking a step back.

Nevertheless, Ash said that there are some definite advantages to joining a larger effort.

He said the City would be able to access more training and achieve higher managerial competency. More than anything, the collaboration would bring bigger and better equipment.

“It would give us access to bigger and better equipment that could better serve our residents and assure that in busy times that we could have all the dispatch necessary to effectively handle any situation that may come up,” he said.

In Revere, the tentative plan being drawn up would be to establish a completely independent authority with its own Emergency Management director. That authority would hire individuals and train them professionally to dispatch 9-1-1 for all three communities. Each community would most likely pay for the service based on call volumes. It is expected that dispatchers would be better trained and would make more money. The dispatch authority would be headquartered at the Revere Police Station, but would be separated completely from the police functions – having its own area and a separate entrance.

Mayor Tom Ambrosino of Revere said that the collaboration effort is really in Chelsea’s court.

“I think Chelsea is way ahead of Revere and Winthrop with their current system,” said Ambrosino. “Whether they want to abandon that is a decision that they will need to make. They are certainly well ahead of Revere in terms of having created a professional dispatch.”

In order to qualify for the state grant money, an agreement between the three cities must be inked by July 1st.

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