Regional dispatch a success

KENNEWICK, Wash. -- Jen Ward dialed 911 just a couple weeks ago.

Jen tells KEPR, "Yeah, it was scary. Someone was banging on our door in the middle of the night saying they were the police department."

Instead of Kennewick police, the call now went to the Benton County Dispatch Center in Richland. Since January 1st, no matter where you live in Benton County, your 911 calls go through there.

"They said they were sending officers immediately," Jen explains.

Routing all the calls to one dispatch center is expected to save more than $200,000. And improve response time. This year, police and fire hope the change will mean first responders get to every call in less than five minutes. Currently, most calls in the Tri-Cities take about six minutes or so. Under the new system, the nearest cop is assigned to respond to Jen's house, no matter what agency they represent.

"Really fast. It was really fast. Probably within a couple minutes."

Now police and county officials are trying to get Franklin County on board to join the regional dispatch. But don't hold your breath. Right now, Franklin County's dispatch is operated by a completely different system. And switching over would take lots of time and resources.

Police and dispatchers alike, believe it'd be worth it in the end.

SEACOMM Manager, Jim Barber says, "If we would deliver efficiencies to the community and the public safety responders and save money, it's a good thing."

Jen is just happy more people will get the help they need, like she did in a time of panic.

"I'm glad they're looking after all the people in the community," Jen sighs.

The consolidation process did result in the loss of some jobs. The dispatch center in Prosser was completely dissolved.