Dane County Executive proposes to eliminate decades old emergenc - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Dane County Executive proposes to eliminate decades old emergency response jurisdiction boundaries

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MADISON (WKOW)--  Dane County's 911 Center has drawn a lot of attention over the last few months. Many in law enforcement and in emergency response are frustrated by response times that don't meet national guidelines. On Wednesday, the Dane County Public Safety Communications Center Board met to discuss a variety of ideas to speed things up.

Board members have already made a significant change to the way police calls are taken by doing away with a computerized system and bringing back a manual question and answer system last used in 2010.

"We have a training scenario set up for all of our folks so they can begin on Monday receiving that training," 911 Center Director John Dejung says.

After two weeks of training the hope is that call center employees will be ready for the new system by June 26th. Meanwhile, a slew of other ideas are also being tossed around. Some are being drafted by the board, others by call center administrators, but the most radical change is being proposed by Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

"There are longstanding, many decades old jurisdiction boundaries right now that have constrained and dictate emergency response," Dane County Executive Chief of Staff Josh Wescott says.

The idea is to eliminate those jurisdiction boundaries for all fire departments in Dane County. That means that dispatchers would be able to send the closest unit regardless of which agency they work for. Right now the idea is only being applied to fire departments, but the county executive's office plans to conduct research to see whether or not it should carry over to local law enforcement agencies as well.

"If the city of Monona is a handful of blocks away and is in a better position to respond to a call then a city of Madison unit that may be 10 or 11 miles away, we believe the protocol should be changed so 911 callers can alert the closest available unit," Wescott says.

The county executive's office thinks that in conjunction with the recent policy changes made to the 911 center, this idea could have a significant impact on decreasing the amount of time it takes to respond to an emergency. Board members however, seemed hesitant about the idea. Many wondered how it would affect smaller fire departments that employ volunteer fire fighters.

There is also the concern about compensation. Fire departments have budgets based on the amount of tax dollars available in their local municipality and the number of calls they respond to on a given year. The elimination of traditional jurisdiction boundaries would muddy the waters in terms of finances and equipment maintenance.

The Dane County Executive's office however, says these issues can easily be resolved.

"The 911 center is working to do better. We think the entire public safety system has room for improvement and room to get there faster. We're hoping they will take this change seriously," Wescott says.

The idea of eliminating jurisdiction lines came from Milwaukee County. Officials there decided to eliminate these lines three weeks ago when the Milwaukee Fire Department and more than a dozen other city fire departments voted in favor of the idea.
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