In light of recent issues occurring with the Dane County 911 Dispatch System, city officials are considering the creation of a new system devoted solely to serving the Madison area.
While the plans are not certain yet, Ald. Paul Skidmore, District 9, who serves as the 911 Board chairman, said the creation of a new dispatch system is under consideration.
“The city and many users of the 911 dispatch center are not satisfied with the level of support being offered right now,” Skidmore said.
He said city officials are discussing whether the current system can be fixed, how long it will take to do so and if it is even possible. If it cannot be fixed in a timely manner or at all, the city is preparing to leave the Dane County system, he said.
The source of recent problems can be linked back to the computerized dispatch system implemented last April, Skidmore said. The new system has led to a variety of problems, from delays in the time taken to process calls and dispatch police, to errors made regarding where and how many resources are sent to emergency sites, he said.
Skidmore said DaneCom, a new radio project for communities outside of Madison, was supposed to go live in December 2012, but has been delayed because of system malfunctions. He said currently no one knows when or if DaneCom will go live.
“While [DaneCom] isn’t being implemented, the current system, which is more than two decades old, is starting to wear out and fail,” Skidmore said.
Having an unreliable radio system puts fire and police department staffs and EMS staff at a disadvantage for emergency dispatch by limiting communication capabilities, he said.
Skidmore said the current dispatch system is both underfunded and understaffed, which only adds to the problem.
Madison Police Lt. Carl Strasberg said in the opinion of the City of Madison, the current system has provided citizens with a decrease in quality of service within the last few years.
Mayor Paul Soglin has been vocal in his dismay toward the lack of efficiency and dependability in the new system. A few months ago, he wrote a letter to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi expressing his concerns, stating that there is no room for error when public safety is at risk.
Until these problems are addressed, Skidmore said city officials will not know whether or not the current system can be salvaged.
Strasberg said he believes there may be great benefits to a separate dispatch system for the city.
“Currently the Dane County system dispatches for over sixty different police, fire and EMS departments throughout the county, so the customer base is extremely large,” Strasberg said.
Breaking this down into more local systems would make it more efficient, he said.
For now, the police department will continue working with Dane County to increase the quality of services provided to citizens, Strasberg said.