911 Task Force Talks About Centralization

In the third meeting of its kind, a task force created to improve 911 service in Ventura County on Wednesday discussed plans that could centralize emergency dispatch service and cut ambulance response time by two minutes.

County Supervisor Frank Schillo, public safety officials and phone company representatives meeting at the Government Center in Ventura concluded that 911 dispatchers could shorten emergency response times by two minutes if they simply called ambulance companies directly.

Often, the dispatchers must contact a central dispatch station as a record-keeping measure before an ambulance is alerted.

“We are trying to save lives here,” said Schillo, who wants to streamline the county’s dispatch services. “We are talking about how we can get the emergency provider out to the scene faster.”


Task force members also discussed installing software that would link the county’s five separate emergency dispatch systems for about $35,000, which is much cheaper than previous estimates. The computer hookups would enable 911 dispatchers to alert an ambulance company and a fire station simultaneously, eliminating the need for extra phone calls.

Another computer program would enable 911 dispatchers to better prioritize emergency calls by providing a series of questions that the operator would ask the caller.

“If they can get sufficient information, then they can send out only the equipment that is needed,” Schillo said.

Finally, officials considered a plan to use microwave signals to transmit dispatch information if phone lines go down during a major disaster.

Schillo said he has asked public safety and emergency officials to obtain bids on the computer software that would link dispatch systems before the task force’s next meeting Nov. 29.