When a house catches fire, the response should be fast and efficient. And the emergency firefighters should be alert and physically up to the task.

So it is responsible for Charleston County to continually look for ways to support and improve the Consolidated Dispatch Center.

But County Council also is responsible for the county’s fiscal health, and that is why council’s 6-3 vote to spend up to $3.4 million to augment the dispatch center’s system must be followed by staff’s careful diligence.

Council gave county staff the go-ahead to work out a deal with Purvis Station Alerting to purchase an system that would automate some steps now done manually, and would shorten emergency response times by 15 to 30 seconds. Further, it is expected to reduce stress on emergency personnel who will hear only calls related to their jurisdictions. Now they hear dispatches for the county’s emergencies elsewhere also, and listening to constant radio traffic is believed to wear people down physically as well as mentally.

It wasn’t the function that worried some councilmembers. After all, the three members who voted against the motion also want county residents to be served as well as possible in emergency situations.

The problem was money. The first company selected to do the project had bid a much lower price initially, but had been eliminated after it raised its price out of reach.

Some council members want assurance that the Purvis deal will be cost appropriate.

It isn’t too late to bargain and to ensure the county’s financial interest in case the system doesn’t function as advertised, and that’s what the county intends to do. Perhaps the $300,000 annual maintenance fee could be mitigated as well.

County residents’ safety depends on the emergency dispatch system.

By all means, provide the most efficient and effective emergency dispatch system possible — while keeping a watchful eye on the bottom line.