For the first time, emergency dispatchers for Snohomish County’s 47 police and fire agencies are operating together at one location, a move that has already helped improve service and save tax dollars.
Before Wednesday, dispatchers were housed at two 911 call centers: SNOCOM in Mountlake Terrace and SNOPAC in Everett. The governing boards for the dispatch centers spent more than 18 months evaluating service and cost impacts and voted late last year to combine operations. The two dispatch agencies consolidated Jan. 1 as Snohomish County 911, but continued to operate at two campuses while they developed plans to come together at single location.
All dispatchers are now based at the former SNOPAC call center located in the same building as the Everett Police Department South Precinct. The former SNOCOM facility will be retained as a backup for emergency use.
The move to a single location ends the need for 911 call transfers that occurred when the two centers were operating separately. Prior to consolidation, about 50,000 call transfers occurred between the two centers each year. Call transfers delayed emergencies and frustrated callers.
“Earlier this year staff from both centers came together and made procedural changes that eliminated most 911 call transfers between the two centers. Operating out of a single facility will put an end to these intra-county transfers altogether,” said Kurt Mills, Snohomish County 911 executive director. “The staff at Snohomish County 911 is passionate about the service we provide and this is a testament to all of them”.
Most of the call transfers impacted agencies on the border between SNOCOM and SNOPAC, most significantly the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and South County Fire.
“With all dispatchers at a single location, this issue goes away. This benefits our 911 callers and our emergency responders,” said South County Fire Chief Bruce A. Stedman.
“The consolidation of our two dispatch centers is a great step in helping us serve the 1 million people who live, work and play in Snohomish County more effectively and efficiently,” said Snohomish County Sheriff Ty Trenary.
Snohomish County 911 is seeing cost savings from the consolidation sooner than expected, Mills said. “We originally thought it would take up to two years, however we’re estimating close to half of those savings will be recognized in our very first budget.” Consolidating dispatch operations in a single call center eliminates duplicated efforts and requires fewer employees.”
He noted there have been no layoffs as all reductions in staffing are being seen through normal attrition.
Snohomish County 911 serves more than 775,000 residents and expects to receive and dispatch more than 750,000 calls to 911 this year.