Those who answer 911 calls in Marana are better equipped and more efficient.
Marana’s Police Department remodeled its communication center, replacing outdated technology and making it more comfortable for its public safety dispatchers and supervisors.
The $250,000 upgrade, which came in under budget, went online June 25 after five weeks of construction. During that time, communications employees worked out of the Oro Valley Police Department’s Communication Center.
The project replaced 17-year-old technology that staff said wasn’t doing the job effectively. The space was reconfigured. Work consoles were reduced from seven to five. A locker room was added for dispatchers and seven computer printers were replaced with one.
“A lot of new technology has developed in the last 17 years and we’re taking advantage of it,” Lt. John DeStefano said, communications manager at MPD.
The 12 dispatchers and two supervisors are pleased with the changes. “They’re very excited. They’re very happy with it,” DeStephano said.
“I love it. I’m absolutely in love with it,” Dispatcher Patty Spencer said in a statement. “It’s bright. It’s homey. It’s home. Everything that the public is going through, we’re going through with them before the officers even get there,” she said.
Upgraded work consoles were key to making the dispatchers’ jobs easier. The consoles have curved main monitors and automatically raise and lower, so dispatchers can work standing. They also move backward and forward with task ambient lighting and air vents. Lights on poles indicate the status of a dispatcher’s call. Red indicates an emergency.
Ergonomically correct chairs round out the new workstations. All the changes were intended to support dispatchers who work eight to 14 hours per shift.
Several years of planning went into the upgrade, Communications Supervisor TJ Olivito said. “All the work was extremely worthwhile,” he said. The new system can be expanded to meet future needs, he added.
The new technology allows dispatchers to triangulate a caller’s location if necessary. “You can get within 6 meters of someone,” Olivito said.
Officers are now connected with the Pima County radio system, so they can go anywhere in the county and still be connected to home base, Olivito said.
He recalled the equipment he worked with when he started in dispatch years ago. It consisted of a white phone, a red phone, and a pad of paper.
The communications department staff works three shifts: day, swing shift and midnight. There’s never a time in 24 hours that there aren’t at least two dispatchers on duty, Olivito said.
With the new technology it takes eight weeks to train a new dispatcher, he said, done in four phases. The job can be challenging and intense.
“You don’t ever get a chance to get bored,” Olivito said. “We’re always reactive.”
The crew is close knit. “We’re a family…,” he said. “This is home and it’s something to be proud of by everybody. … We’ve got an amazing group of people who work here,” Olivito said. “They’ll rise to any task.”
The Marana Police Department suggests these steps to make 911 calls more effective when requesting emergency help:
- When calling 911, even by mistake, don’t hang up. Stay on the line so the dispatcher doesn’t have to call you back.
- Listen and answer questions asked.
- Know the location of the emergency.
- Stay calm and answer all questions.
- Teach children how to call 911 and to know their address and parents’ names.
- Prank calls are a waste of time and are considered illegal.
- Post your address clearly at your home so emergency responders can locate it accurately.