County dispatch centers to get much-needed upgrade
A nearly $1 million grant is allowing dispatch centers in Berrien County to upgrade their outdated communication consoles, bringing them into the 21st century.
Niles City Fire Chief Larry Lamb equated the move to replacing a 15-year-old computer with a new Apple MacBook.
“Just think of the difference in what you can do and how you can do it,” Lamb said. “It’s night and day.”
Last week, the Niles Fire Department was awarded a $993,000 regional Assistance to Firefighters Grant provided through the Department of Homeland Security. Niles Fire was acting as the host agency for the grant on behalf of all public safety agencies in the county.
The grant is going toward a $1.2 million project that will replace eight communication consoles at the county dispatch center in Benton Township and four communication consoles at the dispatch center in Niles.
Dispatchers use the consoles to communicate to policemen, firefighters and ambulance personnel during service calls.
Lamb said dispatchers play a key role in public safety, but are often overlooked by the public.
“People forget about them because they don’t see this part of it. They see the red fire trucks and the police cars, but dispatchers are the initial incident commanders on every incident,” Lamb said. “We need to give them the equipment they need to do their jobs effectively.”
The remaining 20 percent of the project not covered by the grant will be paid for through a county 911 account.
David Agens, 911 director for Berrien County, said the dispatch center in Benton Township receives around 280 service calls a day.
New consoles will allow dispatchers to work more efficiently, leading to more effective emergency response.
It will also make it easier, Agens said, for the county’s two dispatch centers to work better together.
“This upgrade will go a long way in providing improved functionality for dispatchers, and provide the ability for the two dispatch centers to access and support each other’s resources from either location,” he said.
The new consoles are expected to be up and running by the end of 2013.