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Park Ridge, Des Plaines fire departments get OK to seek new dispatching services

The Park Ridge Fire Department is interested in relocating dispatch services to the Regional Emergency Dispatch Center in Northbrook.  |  Ronnie Wachter/Sun-Times Media
The Park Ridge Fire Department is interested in relocating dispatch services to the Regional Emergency Dispatch Center in Northbrook. | Ronnie Wachter/Sun-Times Media

Park Ridge and Des Plaines fire departments have cleared the first hurdle in their attempt to relocate emergency dispatching services to a new regional location.

The city councils of both communities on Sept. 3 approved resolutions to enter into intergovernmental agreements with the Northbrook-based Regional Emergency Dispatch Center. The next step is for the RED Center Board to approve the addition of the two departments on Sept. 16, which is anticipated to occur.

Park Ridge and Des Plaines have already been added as member departments on RED Center’s website.

Formal approval by the RED Center Board “will trigger the process of doing all the groundwork that needs to take place for implementation to occur,” said Park Ridge Fire Chief Mike Zywanski.

The transition is expected to take about eight months, he added.

RED Center currently provides dispatching for 16 suburban fire departments and fire protection districts, including North Maine, Niles, Glenview and Morton Grove.

After joining RED Center, initial calls to 911 for assistance in Park Ridge and Des Plaines will still be answered by the Des Plaines Communications Center, as long as the center remains operational. Dispatchers there will take the caller’s information and transfer calls for fire and paramedic services to the RED Center.

The Park Ridge and Des Plaines police departments, which are dispatched by the Des Plaines Communication Center, are also looking for a new dispatching center and, like the fire departments, plan to move together.

During an Aug. 26 Committee of the Whole meeting, some current Des Plaines dispatchers warned of potential delays and dropped calls if 911 calls have to be transferred to RED Center from their location. On Sept. 3, Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Sorensen told the council that transfers can take seven to eight seconds once the 911 operator answers and collects all the needed information from the caller.

“Is there any public safety issue with this transfer (to RED Center)?” asked 5th Ward Alderman Dan Knight.

“Absolutely not,” responded Sorensen.

Police Chief Frank Kaminski said transferring calls from a Public Safety Answering Point (which is currently the Des Plaines Communications Center) is a common practice in the emergency services field.

“It’s never been an issue,” he said.

One Des Plaines dispatcher told the council that hang-up calls occur “all the time” before the call can be transferred to a dispatch center. Information provided to the council by Zywanski stated that since RED Center installed an updated 911 phone system in October 2012, the center has answered 19,741 calls for service that were transferred from a Public Safety Answering Point. Of these calls, 21 were considered “dropped” calls, but all were reconnected, the information stated.

Zywanski also told the council that the move to RED Center will not result in increased costs and it is expected that annual expenses will decrease by $154,000.

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