Tri-Cities' 911 dispatch centers set to merge this summer
TRI-CITIES, Wash. —
Dispatchers in the Tri-Cities is expected to see some changes this summer with the merging of Benton County's Southeast Communication Center and Franklin County’s dispatch center.
Benton County commissioners voted and passed a transition agreement last year to merge the two emergency entities in Benton and Franklin counties.
Franklin County Sheriff Jim Raymond says the merge is tentatively scheduled for July 1, but that's only if the right personnel and infrastructure, including radio towers, are figured out.
"There's a lot of busyness going on with that to basically connect the two systems together and be able to work them out of under one roof."
Sheriff Raymond says the upcoming merge was also a reason behind the recent dispatcher shortage in Franklin County. He says they have about 12 dispatchers working and admits they've been short staffed for a few years.
Once it's done, all 911 calls in both counties will go to one location, including calls from cell phones.
The sheriff says because of the location of some cell towers, they've had headache-inducing issues with calls made in one county ending up in the other county.
"That's huge because those dispatchers will be able to immediately look at a call and go ‘Well this belongs to the Pasco Police Department’ or ‘This belongs to the Kennewick Police Department.’ They'll be able to dispatch much more effectively and efficiently,” says Sheriff Raymond.
As for those making the 911 calls, he says they'll likely see emergency crews respond about 30 to 60 seconds faster.
"Which doesn't seem like much, but it's huge when you need help."
In addition, Sheriff Raymond says he's happy to the see the merge finally come since it had been one of his campaign promises.