Posted on 29 September 2013 by La Habra Journal
By Jennifer Nguyen
La Habra Journal
Since switching to the Downey Joint Powers Communications Center (also known as Downey Dispatch) on July 23, the dispatcher services have been working “very well” for the La Habra Heights Fire Department, said Fire Chief Doug Graft. One of the main reasons behind the La Habra Heights Fire Department contracting with the city of Downey is that Downey Dispatch has a minimum two-member staff—a call taker and a dispatcher. The number of staff members can expand as incidents increase. This allows Downey Dispatch to handle multiple calls at the same time. Before the move, La Habra Heights had only one staff member per shift responsible for both taking phone calls and dispatching the firefighters. In addition, dispatchers are also fully trained to provide callers instructions before emergency personnel arrive at the scene. Callers would be guided step-by-step in potentially life-saving actions such as CPR, bleeding control, aspirin intervention and the Heimlich maneuver when needed. “These pre-arrival instructions are crucial because the first few minutes following an emergency have potential life-saving implications,” said Graft. Recordkeeping of incident information has become more streamlined than in the past as well, said Graft. Roy Francis, mayor of La Habra Heights, said he was “all for it” when he first heard about the discussion and plans between the fire department and Downey Dispatch. But he expressed concern about where the money would come from. The start-up costs that were allotted by the city council ranged from $40,000 to $60,000. “When Chief Graft took over, he was able to rework the budget to where we had the money to enter into discussions with Downey,” said Francis. “I was happy to learn we were successful. Overall, I feel this was a good move for the fire department.” Established in July 1975, the Downey Joint Power Communications Center uses state-of-the-art technology, including utilizing a Next Generation alarm system, which allows processing of all call data—from landlines and mobile phones—to be automatically plotted on a map. Callers will soon be able to text 911 as well. Downey Dispatch currently provides fire communications and dispatch services to Santa Fe Springs, Downey and Compton. It is also housed in an essential services building, allowing the center to still function during disasters.
“So far, everything has been beyond expectations,” said Ryan Weddle, communications division chief of the La Habra Heights Fire Department. “We have been extremely happy with being a part of the Downey Dispatch system, and we continue to make small refinements to improve things on our end.”