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Long-Awaited Plan to Combine Mid-Columbia 911 Dispatch Services Scheduled for Monday

Post Date:08/03/2018

Richland - The Southeast Communications Center (SECOMM) emergency dispatch center in Richland, WA, managed by Benton County Emergency Services (BCES), will begin fielding all Mid-Columbia 911 calls effective 3:00 a.m., on Monday, August 6, 2018.

The Transition & Buy-in Agreement to have Franklin County and City of Pasco dispatch services join BCES and form a bi-county operation of emergency dispatch services, was formally reached by all parties in June, 2017. However, discussions on the topic have been in process for over a decade. The decision addresses the need to improve 911 call routing from mobile phones as well as cost implications to replace Franklin County’s aging dispatch infrastructure and ever-evolving software technology.

Richland Police Captain, Mike Cobb has been overseeing the planning effort with the assistance of Richland Fire Chief, Tom Huntington. Cobb says consolidating to a single 911 dispatch center is critical to callers on both sides of the Columbia River. “The ongoing reliance on mobile phones poses a challenge to staff when emergency calls from these phones are initially routed to the dispatch center closest to the tower that handles the call. Calls are often directed to the wrong center and can add costly seconds to response time when calls must be rerouted,” states Cobb.  Local officials estimate over 3,000 calls are misrouted annually.

Franklin County and the City of Pasco each committed funds and resources to assist with the transition. In June, 2018, the City of Richland approved an interlocal agreement to resume as the administrative jurisdiction for BCES and will continue ongoing management of the bi-county dispatch efforts.

SECOMM currently provides dispatch services to Kennewick Police and Fire, Richland Police and Fire, West Richland Police, Benton County Sheriff’s Office, Prosser Police, Benton County Fire Protection Districts 1,2,4,5 and 6, and West Benton Fire District (Prosser).

Those agencies joining SECOMM’s network are Franklin County Fire Protection Districts 1-5, City of Pasco Police and Fire, Pasco Airport, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, City of Connell Police and Fire, and Walla Walla Fire District 5.

“First and foremost we want to recognize the hard work and dedication of all the dispatchers in our community. The dispatch team based at Franklin County have served diligently for several decades collectively. We look forward to many of them joining the City of Richland and our valued dispatch team at SECOMM,” states Cindy Reents, Richland City Manager and current chair of BCES. “Our citizens can rest assured they will not notice a decline in their 911 dispatch services. The agencies involved have gone through extensive planning and are committed to a smooth transition. This move allows us all to provide a better level of service to our communities as well as safer and more cost effective operations for tax payers.”

BCES consists of two divisions:  the Southeast Communications Center (SECOMM) and Benton County Emergency Management (BCEM).  SECOMM and BCEM work together to assist emergency responders and promote community safety. For more information regarding BCES, visit www.bces.wa.gov.

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