The Bedford, New Hampshire Police Department announced on Feb. 4 that they were near completion on a new call center facility. The improvements include technology upgrades, new furniture and workflow procedures to make call processing more efficient.
The project is funded by a combination of grant money and capital reserve funds.
One of the most important improvements is an automated system that routes emergency and non-emergency calls to the proper personnel for handling them.
Non-emergency calls account for a significant portion of 911 calls. A cursory look at various jurisdictions shows ranges that from 30 to 80 percent of total calls consist of non-emergency calls.
Within the first 24 hours of the rollout of Bedford's new system, non-emergency calls dropped by 45 percent.
Logistical changes will also lead to more efficiency in the call center. Wireless earpieces free up dispatchers' hands, allowing them to write or enter information at a workstation. A police lieutenant will staff the call center 16 to 18 hours a day, acting as a watch commander.
No new staff will be added as a result of the upgrade. The newly designed furniture will be able to accommodate three dispatchers instead of just one.
The local fire department will also benefit from the improved call center, especially from electronic dispatching by iPads. The technology will provide building plans along with fire hydrant and utility shutoff locations.
With such information at their fingertips, firefighters will be able to act more quickly, when time makes the difference in saving lives and property.
Although Bedford, with an approximate population of 20,000, probably does not have what can be simply termed as ‘big city’ problems, large cities could benefit from applying more of their efficiency to their 911 call center operations. A 2012 report uncovered several problems with the 911 call system in New York City. Call time was wasted on dispatchers reading off their operator number at the beginning of a call, even though the computerized system tracks this information automatically. Asking the same questions more than once was another common problem. This is all coming from a $2.1-billion dollar system.
Whether the call center is in Bedford, NH or New York City, technology alone won’t improve a call center if the logistics are inefficient.