SALT LAKE CITY — When people call 911 in the Salt Lake Valley, their call might end up at Salt Lake City police dispatch, the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office dispatch or even the Valley Emergency Communication Center (VECC).
"It is a spin of the wheel in some areas of this county as to whether you will get the right dispatch center, first of all; second of all, whether they can enter your data in and get it sent to the right one,” said Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder on Wednesday.
It’s a problem Winder and other county leaders hope will be solved soon, after members of the Salt Lake County Council voted Tuesday to move ahead with a plan to unify the valley’s emergency dispatch centers.
Currently, dispatchers are transferring 2,200 calls each month from one center to another, the sheriff said. The agencies use distinct operating systems that do not share information — almost as if one were a Mac and the other a PC.
"The minute that transfer occurs, that's where the problem comes in,” Winder said. “There's no physical way to move the data I have just collected at the other center.”
Sometimes the caller ends up with dispatchers from two centers, and “sometimes they are arguing about who is supposed to take it,” Winder said.
Under the new agreement, Salt Lake City and VECC will hire a consultant to help them determine whether unifying the systems is feasible. If it is, John Inch Morgan, VECC's executive director, said his agency will select the operating system, "so that we can take calls in different jurisdictions and transfer the information and the call as seamlessly and quickly as possible."
The difference could mean "quicker response times, if we are transferring information back and forth," Inch Morgan said. "For some police agencies it may be a quicker sharing of records.”
The merge is something that emergency responders have been talking about for years. Also in the plans for all 911 dispatch centers throughout the state is texting and video capability. That's the next level of emergency response, and every community is moving in that direction in the next few years.