'Seconds matter:' Task force formed to look at improving Trumbull's emergency dispatch

An effort to create a centralized emergency dispatch in Trumbull is underway, with support of the first selectman, fire officials, police and EMS.

“We have learned that seconds do matter and we have to be sure our emergency response is immediate and efficient,” First Selectman Timothy Herbst said at Monday’s meeting.

When a 911 call comes in it goes directly to the Trumbull Police Department, which is the primary dispatch center for the town. Depending on the nature of the call, it may be transferred to the fire department or the dispatch center that handles Trumbull’s EMS communications. If the police dispatch center is busy, as was the case during storm emergencies like Irene, the call goes to fire dispatch.

“When a 911 call is received from a resident they don't know we have separate dispatching systems,” Herbst said. “They want a consistent and immediate response.”

The Town Council gave unanimous approval Monday night for the formation of a task force, composed of Police Deputy Chief Glenn Byrnes, Deputy Emergency Management Director William Chiarenzelli, Long Hill Fire District Chief Doug Bogen and EMS Director Joseph Laucella, to research the town’s options and potential cost of creating a unified central emergency communication system. The task force will compile options and present those to the Town Council in 90 days.

Herbst, who commended the Fire Department volunteers, EMS and police for handling of recent weather emergencies said the centralized dispatch could lead to better collaboration and efficiency in public safety, as well as bringing down costs of delivering services. He said he hoped that town officials could reach across the aisle to support the centralized effort.

“As someone who has sat in that EOC [Emergency Operations Center] far too many times in the last four years this is my top public safety priority,” Herbst said.

The centralized dispatch system is something many other communities have or are moving toward. A few years ago, state elected officials were discussing regionalizing dispatch between towns, though it never moved forward. Herbst said he feels it’s important for Trumbull to get its “own house in order” before an effort like that could be undertaken.

The first selectman said he doesn’t expect the implementation of a centralized dispatch to be cheap, saying it could be anywhere from 1 to $2.5 million, depending on the scope and options presented. However, Herbst said, Trumbull’s fire districts’ taxes include covering about $600,000 for dispatching services. He said savings could be realized or the fire officials can allocate any savings to better training, equipment, etc.

“I commend the way this committee is constructed,” Town Council member James Meisner said.

Meisner also noted that Trumbull gets a good deal because of its volunteer fire department and he wouldn’t want to see a savings of $600,000 in dispatching mean losing dedicated volunteers.

Herbst said that money used for dispatching could be reallocated to get the volunteer department better equipment or training that paid departments receive.

Town Council Democrat Martha Jankovic-Mark, who is also running against the first selectman in November, said she supported the task force. She said she recently toured both the fire and police dispatch areas and was interested to see the research and information the task force will present.

“I think this is a good project to undertake,” she said.