CARTHAGE, Mo. —
Jasper County residents who call 911 with a law enforcement emergency now won’t be transferred before reaching someone to send help their way.
The Jasper County Emergency Services Board began dispatching for the Sheriff’s Department at 9 a.m. Monday.
Sheriff Randee Kaiser at midday Monday said the transition had gone well after the final telephone switch completed the transfer.
April Tarrant, executive director of the Jasper County 911 center, agreed.
She said there had been “some nerves” about the changeover, which is expected to increase call volume at the county 911 center by more than 60 percent.
But she said more than half the dispatchers on staff worked at the center earlier when it provided dispatching for the sheriff’s office until August 2010.
“A lot of them are familiar with it, and that’s what we’re here for,” she said.
The changeover took place three months after Kaiser took office. He and Tarrant said the two agencies had worked together to prepare for the shift.
At the dispatch center, Tarrant said, changes included modifying software to reflect all the sheriff’s officers and the zone coverage used by the agency.
“We also changed some procedures, and we discussed that with the sheriff’s office and police chiefs for all the other agencies we dispatch, because we wanted to make sure we were consistent for everyone,” she said. “And, everyone has been very cooperative.”
Dispatchers who worked for the sheriff’s office have been placed in other jobs in the department, Kaiser said. The office also will give the 911 center some furniture and other equipment purchased when the sheriff’s office resumed its own dispatching operations.
Kaiser said the shift was a priority for him because he believed it would result in faster, more efficient service for county residents. He said he particularly wanted to eliminate the delay that occurred when emergency calls went to the 911 center, then were transferred to the sheriff’s office. Before transferring a call, dispatchers at the center would gather basic information in case the call was disconnected, then sheriff’s dispatchers would have to get information when the call came to them.
“Now, the first person they talk to will be the person who sends help,” Kaiser said. “Fifteen seconds isn’t a long time, but if someone’s kicking in your door at 3 a.m., it’s a big deal.”
Tarrant said the center has been able to take on the added calls without increasing its staff, but it has modified schedules based on expected call volumes.
Other preparations were completed last week, after the sheriff’s office and the emergency services board worked out an agreement under which the county board will provide emergency and nonemergency dispatching for the sheriff’s office at no charge.
Offering the service without charge had been a priority for the current 911 board, whose members pointed out that county taxpayers already were paying taxes for the 911 center.
An earlier 911 board charged the sheriff’s office $110,000 per year for dispatching when, in 2004, then-Sheriff Archie Dunn decided to contract for the service rather than replace outdated dispatching equipment. He decided to take back the sheriff’s dispatching operation after county voters in 2005 approved a quarter-cent law enforcement sales tax and after some disputes between him and the board could not be resolved.
Dunn was making plans to take back dispatching at the same time the board dismissed Rich Nordell, the former director, and hired Tarrant for the job in 2010.
“We’ve been able to meet with sheriff’s supervisors and discuss some things that had been issues before, Tarrant said. “It’s been a benefit.”
Sheriff’s emergency and nonemergency calls will go to the 911 center, but nonemergency calls will be automatically directed via a phone tree, allowing people to ask for a deputy or to reach sheriff’s operations such as administration, investigations and the jail, Kaiser said.
“If someone needs a deputy on a nonemergency basis, all they have to do is call our regular numbers — 358-8177 or 624-1601 — then dial ‘1,’” Kaiser said.
THE JASPER COUNTY Emergency Services Board in January endorsed a proposal from Joplin police Chief Lane Roberts suggesting the consolidation of the Joplin and county dispatching centers into a single dispatching point. Roberts said the plan would save money and provide better emergency services. A committee representing the two entities is working on the proposal, said April Tarrant, executive director of the Jasper County 911 center.