West Central Consolidated Communications, a joint emergency police and fire dispatch agency serving Brookfield, North Riverside, Riverside and McCook, will go live on Tuesday, May 8 after two years of preparation.
WC3 beginning next week will handle all police and fire calls for the four villages, replacing the individual police dispatch centers each village now operates. WC3 Executive Director Jason Rodgers, whose office is inside the North Riverside Police Department where the new consolidated dispatch center is located, said residents shouldn’t notice much change in the way calls are handled.
“I expect calls to 911 to be pretty seamless,” said Rodgers, who was hired by the WC3 executive board, which includes the village managers of Brookfield, North Riverside and Riverside. WC3 also has an operations board, which includes the fire and police chiefs of every member agency.
With about 70 percent of emergency calls coming in from mobile phones, Rodgers said that the most important aspect of consolidated dispatch is verifying in what town the emergency is.
That shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the 12 full-time WC3 dispatchers, all of whom are already emergency dispatchers in one of the member communities.
“There is already a familiarity, because we all work so closely together,” said Riverside Village Manager Jessica Frances, who is chairwoman of the WC3 executive board through 2021.
One major change as a result of the consolidation is that local police department front desks, except for North Riverside, will be staffed during daytime hours only. After hours there won’t be anyone physically present to take walk-in reports or complaints.
However, there will be video cameras and phones at the front desk areas in Brookfield, Riverside and McCook that can immediately patch after-hours visitors into the WC3 center.
Frances said that residents of the four towns should also begin calling 911 for all incidents to ensure immediate response. While non-emergency numbers will be answered during daytime hours, those phones won’t be manned after hours at the individual departments and callers will get a message telling them to call 911.
“If you need immediate assistance, the way to get emergency medical services, police services or even public works is 911,” Frances said.
All of the member villages are also changing the way they provide emergency notifications to residents. Moving forward, the villages will all be using a service called Everbridge, which will be able to forward text and voice emergency notifications to residents.
Residents can sign up for Everbridge online through a link on the home page of the village of Brookfield’s website at www.brookfieldil.gov.
North Riverside Police Department will also become the central booking and prisoner lockup facility for Brookfield and Riverside, while McCook will process its arrestees in Stickney, said Rodgers.
Throughout the next year or so, said Rodgers, dispatchers will be trained in Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD), an advanced form of emergency dispatching to provide consistent service to those calling in with medical emergencies.
There will be three dispatchers working during two of the three daily shifts, said Rodgers, two dispatchers will work overnights. The setup should allow dispatchers to assist one another and more quickly dispatch emergency personnel.
Passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner in 2015, consolidated dispatch is meant, over the long haul, to reduce overall costs and provide better service to communities under 25,000 people.
However, the savings are not yet in evidence. Setting up the joint dispatch center, which will be housed in the North Riverside Police Department at 2359 Desplaines Ave., has cost its member communities about $1.2 million.
Brookfield, North Riverside and Riverside split the cost for creating the agency as full partners in WC3. McCook is an associate member and will pay WC3 a flat fee of $150,000 during the first year, with annual increases built into McCook’s agreement with the agency.
One of the biggest expenses was the installation of fiber-optic cable, creating a closed high-speed communications system between WC3 and all of its member agencies. The fiber-optic cable installation, a project that started last summer, cost the agency about $760,000 alone.
“Are we realizing a cost savings right off the bat in year one? Not with those capital outlays,” Rodgers said. “But we’ve worked really hard to keep things in line with not going beyond what agencies are paying independently with their own [centers].”
WC3 could see an after-the-fact reduction in the overall cost for implementation through grants that have become available through the Illinois Emergency Telephone System Board, which collects E911 surcharges on all phones registered in the state and distributes the funds based on registration.
“The state advisory board has been setting aside a certain portion of those surcharge funds for agencies to apply for,” Rodgers said.
If WC3 is successful in obtaining a grant, it could significantly offset the cost for creating the consolidated dispatch center.