by VERONICA GORDON
When you call 9-1-1 in an emergency, do you know where your call is being answered? If you live in the city of Buda, the call is taken by the Hays County Sheriff’s Office and routed to Buda responders.
The Hays County Commissioners Court formed a committee in 2009 to look at ways to consolidate emergency communications among local law enforcement agencies and emergency services.
“This is something that’s a trend across the nation to consolidate these regional PSAPs into one,” said Buda Police Chief Bo Kidd.
The committee recommends that individual agencies currently staffing call or dispatch centers relocate to one facility so that information about an event could be more easily and quickly shared. Training would be streamlined, more cost effective and consistent. Employees would continue to be managed by their individual governmental entities while the facility would be managed by a board of directors.
The county recently authorized a project study to be conducted in an effort to centralize communications among Hays County agencies for a single, county-wide 9-1-1/dispatch Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP).
The benefits to co-locating include more coordination and collaboration among 9-1-1 call-takers, dispatchers and responders, leading to faster, more reliable emergency response service, said
Erica Carpenter, communications director for the Hays County Sheriff’s Office.
The total project cost is $174,465. Hays County is asking the city of Buda to contribute 12% which is $11,305. This percentage was based on calls for service for Buda PD in 2011.
Last month, Buda City Council members approved contributing funds to the study. Kyle City Council members also approved their portion of the funding at a cost of $19,191.
Because emergency calls are taken by the various agencies, callers don’t always receive the best service, Carpenter said.
“For all of Hays County and for all cities, we need to improve emergency service and that includes 9-1-1 professionals, technology, advancements in our responders and better responses to all citizens,” Carpenter said. “There is a need to do that. Everyone deserves the best high quality emergency service they can get.”
Hays County’s call centers are behind in technology and office space, Carpenter added.
“We need to consolidate together to actually make improvements and reduce deficiancies,” she added.
Mission Critical Partners (MCP), a consulting firm specializing in emergency communications, is conducting the study including where the facility will be located and the ultimate cost of co-location.
The program study will last approximately 14-16 weeks.