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Upgrades planned to centralized emergency dispatch center in Springfield

a woman sits in front of computer monitors
Paul Tuthill
The city of Springfield's emergency dispatch center that brought fire and police dispatchers under one roof opened in February 2021.

The nearly $1 million communications center opened last year

New technology is going to be added to improve emergency responses in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Contract negotiations are underway to install a single-source computer-aided dispatch system and a police records management system to the City of Springfield’s centralized dispatch center, said Springfield Fire Commissioner B.J. Calvi.

“That’s going to be the next step to really streamline the operation,” he said.

Speaking at a recent meeting of the City Council Public Safety Committee, Calvi described the planned technology upgrades as the second phase of the project that consolidated emergency communications under one roof in February 2021.

Previously, the police and fire departments had separate dispatch centers. 911 calls were answered at the police department. If a fire was being reported, the caller was transferred to the fire department’s dispatch center.

“All the dispatchers are co-located in one facility with one unified management team and have around-the-clock supervision, which we did not have before when we were in two disjointed centers,” Calvi said. “For supervision reasons alone, this a huge win for dispatch and for the citizens of the city.”

The consolidated communications center is located at the former fire department’s dispatch building on Roosevelt Ave.

“We completely gutted the facility back to the studs and began rebuilding a state-of-the-art dispatch facility, which included new flooring, new furniture, new radios, new computers, all new hard wiring and interconnection, (a) new fiber optic line that was run in there by the city,” Calvi said.

He said the centralized dispatch center has improved response times and coordination between the public safety departments.

“If the police department needs assistance from the fire department, they’re just 5 feet away,” Calvi said. “The radio operators are 5 feet apart and you can start resources much quicker.”

The dispatch center has an annual budget of $3 million and a staff of 54 people. There are currently nine vacancies.

City Councilor Victor Davila, chair of the Public Safety Committee, praised the emergency dispatchers, calling them unsung heroes.

“I know it is an extremely stressful job.” Davila said.

Last year, dispatchers answered more than 375,000 emergency calls. As of mid-June, there were more than 170,000 calls to 9-1-1 in Springfield so far this year.

Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.