Consolidation of essential services is a tough sell in an area with a multitude of local jurisdictions and elected councils whose members think they have turf to protect.
But Charleston County’s Consolidated 911 Center has been proving itself a good idea since 2009. It has taken the place of 10 separate dispatch centers, helping to coordinate and improve local emergency response.
Recently, it achieved accreditation by the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch, after meeting the organization’s rigorous standards for fire and medical emergency response.
That’s good news for the hundreds of callers who contact the center daily. It means their calls will be handled by dispatchers who have shown themselves qualified in emergency protocols, offering qualified interim assistance while help is on the way.
As County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor noted last week, the dispatch center already has proven itself by “reducing response times and saving lives.”
Indeed, the dispatch center has trimmed as much as a minute and a half off emergency response time since consolidation. When mere seconds can be crucial, that translates into lives saved.
Mr. Pryor’s comments were made at the ribbon-cutting for the county’s new Emergency Operations Center, itself a significant achievement for the county. The $26.7 million facility also serves as headquarters for the county’s Emergency Management Department.
The building, on Palmetto Commerce Parkway in North Charleston, is designed to resist earthquake damage and withstand hurricane winds up to 191 mph.
It also has a self-contained utility system so that its vital work won’t be interrupted during a disaster. The Consolidated 911 Center is expected to shift its operations into the new headquarters next month, after testing of its equipment there is complete.
The consolidation effort has been given impetus by the county’s willingness to shoulder the financial burden for the building, and eventually for the personnel working there.
A county committee that is expected to soon undertake a comprehensive study for the broader consolidation of government operations should take heed of this success story.
That the county, local towns, cities and PSDs were able to move as one on the 911 center should encourage further consolidation efforts aimed at improving essential services.
Maybe they can even save some tax dollars along the way.
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