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Report Recommends Consolidation Of Emergency Dispatch Services

Matthew Hersh

An independent consultant Wednesday night recommended that the two Princetons should combine their emergency dispatch services.

The $70,000, 150-page, study, conducted by the Virginia-based Carroll Buracker & Associates outlined the advantages of combining the systems to increase efficiency and response times of the Princeton Borough and Township Police departments, the Princeton Fire Department, and the Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad. And although the report indicated a slight cost reduction in the two-dispatch system, the recommendation was based primarily on safety, the firm' s Mr. Buracker said.

Currently, the Borough and Township have their own dispatching consoles located at their respective police departments.

The report goes on to call for a unified Princeton Emergency Communications Center staffed by two full-time dispatchers with a staff total of 10. Mr. Buracker added that the location of the facility should be in the Township, since its dispatch console was updated after the new municipal building was completed four years ago.

Mr. Buracker delivered his firm' s report at a joint session of Princeton Borough Council and Township Committee. Members of both governing bodies said they needed time to digest the report before making any decisions.

The report was delivered just two days after Buracker and Associates offered a 400-page analysis of the Township Police Department that called for up to seven cuts in supervisory officer positions.

According to Township officials, those recommendations were unrelated to the untimely retirement of Chief Anthony Gaylord, who has taken a paid leave of absence until his official retirement arrives on February 1, 2007 (see story on page 1).

Members of Township Committee have said they need to read the report through before making any decisions. Committee has offered no indication that it will act on the report's recommendations.

For the dispatch study, Mr. Buracker said the typical response time for fires should fall somewhere between six to nine minutes, emergency medical services (EMS) response times around five minutes, with police response time around four minutes.

The current staffing levels are enough to handle the emergency workload coming into the Borough and Township dispatchers, Mr. Buracker said. With the report calling for a staff of 10 at a unified dispatching center, there may be room for a downsizing of the department.

The study pointed to potential errors caused by incoming 911 calls as they are currently handled by both the Borough and Township dispatching services, with responding units handled by county dispatch services.

"This results in split-dispatch call handling ‹ a process that is, in our opinion, is error-prone," Mr. Buracker said.

The consultant also said that while Princeton University' s Public Service was not part of the study, the towns should look to process emergency calls coming in off campus. Emergency calls coming from campus are currently handled through Public Safety before being passed on to municipal dispatchers.

The report recommends a 50/50 split in cost between the two municipalities and the appointment of an advisory board that would devote between 30 and 90 days to reviewing the report.

Several members of Borough Council questioned whether the consolidation of dispatch services could serve as a prelude to a full consolidation of both police departments. Mr. Buracker said if that were the case, the towns should rethink their timelines as to when to consolidate dispatching services, since it would require updates to the current radio infrastructure, including the use of a new radio tower slated for construction along the Princeton Ridge in the Township.


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