Combined dispatch proving a success already

IT HAS BEEN IN operation for less than three months, but the combined city/county emergency dispatch center is already proving its worth.

The County Board earlier this month heard a report on the combined dispatch center, located in the county Law Enforcement Center, from Inspector Jim Risseuw of the Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Department.

His presentation also covered the concurrent update of the countywide emergency radio system, utilized by all police and fire department, ambulance services and first responders throughout the county.

The new center consolidated previous separate – and oft-times overlapping – emergency dispatch centers at the Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Department and the city of Sheboygan Police Department.

It was not an easy – or inexpensive – process to get to this point, as many of those involved will be quick to point out.

Combining the city and county services had been under discussion for more than a quarter of a century before agreement was finally reached, and much of the delay in that process came from the cost of such a move and the question of who would bear that cost.

And there was additional cost to setting up and running a combined center – but the benefits definitely outweigh the costs.

No matter what their politics or place on the political spectrum, everyone should be able to agree that providing emergency response and protecting life and property is one of the chief tasks of all governments. Anything that makes providing those services faster and more efficient should be worth the cost.

With the overlapping city and county dispatch centers, it was often possible that incoming 911 calls went to the wrong center, creating delays as the call was forwarded to the correct officials – delays that could be potentially life-threatening.

In the case of the emergency radio system, the old equipment and radios were outdated and, in many cases, no longer able to be maintained. Additionally, there were gaps in coverage in some areas of the county.

With the new system, all of that is no longer true – and makes the vital emergency services we all depend on more efficient and effective.

Risseuw provided one anecdotal example of how the more efficient radio system and dispatch center paid off in a successful search for a missing person near Cedar Grove. There are certainly many more examples already of the efficient combined dispatch center and upgraded radios enabling faster, more successful responses to emergency situations.

There is no denying that the new center and radio systems cost more money, but it’s a cost all taxpayers should be willing to bear given the crucial benefi ts they provide all of us. It’s a cost that pales in comparison to the personal toll of even one instance of a missed emergency dispatch due to confusion or misdirection caused by duplicating response centers, or gaps in radio coverage.

County and city leaders deserve thanks and credit for stepping up to make the new center and radio system a reality. Members of both the city of Sheboygan Police Department and the Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Department deserve thanks and credit as well for working together to bring the new system to reality.

And most of all, the dedicated men and women of the combined emergency dispatch center, as well as the paid and volunteer law enforcement, fire and emergency response agencies throughout the county, deserve our deepest gratitude and thanks for their efforts and service in keeping all of us as safe and secure as possible.

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