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The new arrangement is expected to shave at least seconds off response times to fires and medical calls.
Calling the "strategic move" an example of "good government," City Manager Rich Ramirez said it's a "win-win for both cities."
The longtime contract between Cal Fire and the fire district ends with the fiscal year on June 30, and the contract with Napa starts immediately thereafter, American Canyon Fire District Chief Glen Weeks said.
Though the cost of continued Cal Fire services is unknown, it was expected to be higher than this year's $44,000, Weeks said. The new contract is $65,000 annually for two years.
Quick to note that no one was unhappy with Cal Fire's dispatch services, Weeks said the decision to change resulted from several factors.
"Cal Fire just started charging us for dispatch this year -- it's been free 'till now -- so we never considered changing," he said. "When the state had to start charging us, we looked at alternatives and found the advantages with Napa Central seemed the most prudent choice."
Though Napa Central Dispatch has long handled American Canyon Police Department and other local agencies' emergency calls, American Canyon's fire calls were routed to Cal Fire for dispatch, Weeks said.
"When a 911 fire call comes in, the center transfers it to Cal Fire in St. Helena," center manager Lt. Debbie Peecook said.
"On medical calls, we assess the situation, walk the caller through what to do, while notifying Cal Fire to dispatch and we get hold of local ambulance service. This will cut out a step and could save lives by shaving seconds up to a couple of minutes off the response time, and seconds count, especially in medical situations."
The move will allow the activation of enhanced technology, including mobile data computers that the district has but which didn't work with Cal Fire's equipment, Weeks said.
"This will reduce voice radio traffic, and display information on a screen in the engine," Weeks said. "It's the latest technology. Police Departments use it. All the information on the call appears on a touch-screen computer that allows you to communicate with dispatch."
This reduces call processing time and the Computer Aided Dispatch system tracks information automatically, enhancing accuracy and saving firefighter report-writing time and effort, he said.
At Napa Central Dispatch, the new level of cooperation is being well received, Peecook said.
"Everybody here in the city of Napa is very excited about the change and cooperation," she said. "This will save time and increase the level of services for American Canyon."
From now on, the center will send a team to major emergencies in American Canyon to reduce confusion and help with coordination and accountability, she said. A joint powers agreement between American Canyon Fire and Napa City Fire entered into last year involves sharing resources including battalion chief response to major incidents, Weeks said.
Source: http://www.timesheraldonline.com - link
Author: Rachel Raskin-Zrihen Times-Herald staff writer
Posted: 05/30/2011 01:00:42 AM PDT