Richmond (Va.) Consolidates City Emergency Communications
Mayor Dwight C. Jones’ proposed budget includes a change that would affect everyone who calls 911 in Richmond.
The mayor is proposing to spend $3.7 million to merge the functions of the emergency communications professionals who field the calls for Richmond’s police, fire and ambulance crews.
Police and fire calls currently are handled by a civilian communications staff that falls under the jurisdiction of the Richmond Police Department. Ambulance calls are handled by the Richmond Ambulance Authority.
In cases where someone calls 911 and needs an ambulance, the police dispatchers who take the original call then work with their counterparts at the ambulance authority. Jones’ office said that overlap can create delays in response times and that such scenarios can mean the difference between life and death.
In requesting the expenditure to create a stand-alone city agency called the Department of Emergency Communication that would handle police, fire and ambulance calls, Jones’ office said the consolidation would improve operational performance, helping cut response times by more than 80 seconds for calls involving life-threatening emergencies.
“These saved seconds drastically affect health outcomes,” Jones’ budget proposal said.
The $3.7 million for the new agency would come primarily from the police department’s operating budget. The department — which would no longer oversee any of the dispatchers — currently operates its emergency call center at 3516 N. Hopkins Road in South Richmond, where the combined operations would be located. The ambulance authority — which has operated as a separate agency since its creation in 1991 — runs its dispatch operations at the authority’s headquarters at 2400 Hermitage Road in North Richmond.
In addition to reducing response times, combining the dispatch operations under one roof also would allow the two agencies to share technology and avoid duplicate costs, creating an annual estimated savings of $97,000.