City of Milford rolls out new emergency dispatch center

Milford's public safety officials are counting on a newly upgraded emergency dispatch center to help improve public safety and emergency response times. The system went online Tuesday, May 7 and will see both police and fire dispatch operations combined for the first time.

Mayor Benjamin G. Blake was joined by Police Chief Keith L. Mello and acting Fire Chief Robert J. Healey at a press conference held at Milford Police Headquarters Wednesday, May 8. During the morning briefing, the city officials described the five-year effort to get the new system funded and online.

Chief Mello said the new system would not only increase emergency response efficiency, but would “save millions of dollars over the life of the system.”

He described the prior system as antiquated and problematic, requiring that residents calling 911 be transferred between the two departments on occasion.

“Prior to today, if you called 911 and you received a fire dispatcher, but needed to talk to a police officer, the call had to be transferred over to the police department,” Mello said.

He said that while an emergency call was being transferred, “a whole series of things can happen. [A caller's] cell phone signal can drop, or [a caller] could have to repeat the call or they may think they’ve already told somebody the information,” Mello said. “It wasn’t what we wanted for residents.”

Because 911 calls will no longer be transferred from one location to another, the City of Milford will be eligible to receive approximately $100,000 per year in additional state funding.

“The State of Connecticut incentivized the consolidation of our dispatch center to the tune of $100,000 or more,” Mayor Blake said. That money, the mayor said, would come from the 911 surcharge the state collects from residents’ phone bills.

“In the City of Milford, we try to streamline and make the business of government  more efficient by doing things better, faster and cheaper, but when it comes to public safety, there is a different set of standards,” Mayor Blake said. “You have to make sure you are not economizing public safety.”

The newly combined emergency dispatch center will be housed at the police headquarters on Boston Post Road.

“Now we are using one set of infrastructure, one set of towers and one set of radio equipment,” Chief Mello said. “It’s going to improve coverage for both fire and police for many years to come.”

Acting Fire Chief Healey gave much credit to Mayor Blake and his predecessor Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr. and to the combined efforts of both the fire and police departments.

He seemed confident that the new system would prove reliable during emergencies.

“Just from the fire department side,” Healey said, “our radio communications just  went from a one-antiquated-transmitter, two receiver system to a three transmitter, six receiver system. It should be a win-win-win for all parties involved.”