In light of what happened on September 11, 2001, communications between public safety agencies (police, fire, ambulance) came to the forefront. For each town, the ability for police, fire, and EMS to intercommunicate with each other is key. One of the keys is radio communication and dispatch services. Unfortunately, most New England States do not provide much information on dispatch services. These pages attempt to provide some of that information.
Some people believe that all 911 calls go directly to their local dispatch center rather than to a central location so I thought a brief discussion on 911 services might be helpful. Basic 911 Service is an emergency telephone system that automatically connects 911 callers to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). Enhanced-911 service does the same plus shows the caller’s name, street address, and telephone number to the PSAP. This allows the PSAP to identify the caller’s location automatically if the caller is unable to communicate this information verbally to the PSAP call taker.
Police and fire calls are immediately transferred to the appropriate local dispatch center for dispatch. For medical emergencies, the appropriate EMS responder is called but the PSAP call taker stays on the line to provide appropriate emergency medical instructions while waiting for the responder to arrive.
There has been much discussion on regionalization of PSAP and dispatch services lately. Vermont reduced the number of PSAP centers from 53 to 6. Maine reduced the number of PSAP centers from 48 to 26 and is proposing to reduce the number further to 17. Massachusetts has 232 PSAP centers and Massachusetts officials are encouraging communities to regionalize their dispatch operations as most PSAP centers also function as the local dispatch service. Connecticut has 95 PSAP centers. New Hampshire and Rhode Island are the only states to have consolidated their PSAPs into one location. This saves money on upgrade costs because it is in one location rather than multiple locations.
One of the keys to limiting damage caused by fire is the response time. NFPA 1710 sets a goal for all fire departments to respond to a fire within 6 minutes. Response time is defined as the time from when a 911 call is first received to the time a fire truck arrives on scene. Part of this 6-minute window is 1 minute for dispatch time.
Basic 911 Service is an emergency telephone system that automatically connects 911 callers to a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). Enhanced-911 service does the same plus shows the caller’s name, street address, and telephone number to the PSAP. This allows the PSAP to identify the caller’s location automatically if the caller is unable to communicate this information verbally to the PSAP call taker.
All calls to 911 are routed to the appropriate PSAP. Many PSAP centers will transfer a call to a local dispatch center. Many dispatch centers dispatch for multiple agencies and multiple communities. There are approximately 86 local dispatch centers in New Hampshire, approximately 57 local dispatch centers in Maine. approximately 40 local dispatch centers in Vermont, approximately 54 local dispatch centers in Rhode Island with all but one being specific to its community and many communities have one for fire and one for police.
There are almost 23,700 dispatch centers in the United States of which approximately 6,900 are PSAP centers. Many of these dispatch centers are regional dispatch centers serving multiple agencies. The following document lists the PSAP centers in each New England State, what formula they use to charge member town, what dispatch services they are capable of providing and what are the local dispatch centers in the six New England States.
Each State imposes a 911 surcharge on each phone for the purposes of providing 911 service to its residents. The surcharge varies from State to State. In New England, the following surcharges are in effect to fund 911 services:
- There is a $0.70 surcharge per phone line per month in Connecticut.
- There is a $0.60 surcharge per phone line per month in Delaware.
- There is a $0.35 surcharge per phone line per month in Maine.
- There is a $1.00 surcharge per phone line per month in Massachusetts.
- There is a $0.75 surcharge per phone line per month in New Hampshire.
- There is a $1.00 surcharge per wired phone line and $1.26 surcharge per wireless phone line per month in Rhode Island.
- 911 services and four other programs are funded through the Universal Service Fund in Vermont.