The communications center acts as the public’s first point of contact. The dispatcher, often referred to as the initial first responder, must collect and gather information concerning the type of emergency services needed. A great deal of emphasis is given to scene safety issues that may cause harm to the responders going to the location to render assistance.
Belchertown’s dispatch center is comprised of a head dispatcher, senior dispatcher and three full time dispatchers that work five days on with two days off. Five part time dispatchers as well as patrol officers are utilized to provide shift coverage when the need arises. One dispatcher works per eight hour shift and is responsible for answering four business lines, two inter-departmental lines, ten lines that comprise the 911 system as well as interacting with residents who come in the station. The dispatcher is also responsible for using the radio console to tone out for services and monitoring five different radio frequencies. The building is equipped with a series of interior and exterior cameras to insure the security of the building. The dispatch center has three monitors that enable the dispatcher to be aware of what is transpiring in the designated areas. A Criminal Justice Information System (CJIS) computer is used by dispatchers to process in state and out of stateinquiries on registration plates, licenses and warrants to name a few of the many tasks that can be handled. The physical dispatch center is designed in a way that allows for two dispatchers to work at a time with a mirror image of equipment on both sides of the room. In situations where call volume is high both positions are utilized. In addition to handling police, fire and medical calls the dispatcher also handles calls for the animal control officer and the department of public works. The dispatch center handles approximately 13, 700 calls for service per year which are logged into our IMC/TriTech Software. The above number is representative of only those calls where a response was initiated or documentation was required but would be substantially larger if all incoming calls where accounted for.
Anyone who is hired by the department as a dispatcher or patrol officer must successfully complete several training programs. These programs include a five day APCO Basic Telecommunicator class, a three day Priority Dispatch Emergency Medical dispatch training that allows pre-arrival instructions to be supplied to callers and a two day 911 equipment class. The department acknowledges that these are minimum requirements and sends employees to additional trainings to build upon their knowledge and skill sets. The State 911 Department requirements also dictate that all 911 system users complete sixteen hours of continuing education each year.
Residents calling into the dispatch center will be asked a series of questions and are urged to remain on the line until instructed otherwise. The dispatcher will gather all applicable details that will be relayed to responding units. If the call is medical in nature the dispatcher will provide the caller with pre-arrival instructions after basic questions are asked and answered. If you are making a 911 call from your cellular phone make sure that you let the dispatcher know what community the emergency is taking place in. All 911 calls made from cellular phones are first answered by a dispatcher at the state police who then transfers the call to the appropriate community. As a general rule, 911 should be used to report crimes in progress, fires or when an ambulance is needed. Our non-emergency lines (323-6685/323-6655/323-0414) can be used for non-emergency purposes. For added security residents coming into the station to report an incident or to ask a question have to stop at the front entrance, ring the doorbell and then the dispatcher will let them into the building.
As the dispatch center moves into the future it will continue to evolve to better serve the needs of its residents as technological advances are made and the community itself continues to grow.