Banner Advance Home Navigation Bar Advance Home Issue Index Read past articles Weekly Calendar

January 31, 2005

New Center Improves Response Time
To Emergency Cell Phone Calls

John McClure, foreground, and Alex Mrazik Jr., dispatchers, in the UConn Police/Fire Communications Center

John McClure, foreground, and Alex Mrazik Jr., dispatchers, in the UConn Police/Fire Communications Center. Changes at the Center have enabled emergency services to respond more quickly to calls from cell phones.

Photo by Peter Morenus

Emergency 911 calls made from cell phones on campus will now go directly to the UConn Police/Fire Communications Center.

Previously, cell phone calls to the 911 emergency number were routed to the County Dispatch Center in Tolland, making it vital that callers clearly identify that they were on campus. The UConn police or fire department would then receive a transferred call, wasting valuable time.

That all changed when a new communications center opened in December.

“The cell tower servicing UConn has been redirected to appropriately have calls answered locally,” says Maj. Ronald Blicher.”

Extensive renovations to the communications center at the UConn Police Department, and a subtle redirection of an on-campus antenna, made the change possible, says Blicher. The project was funded through UConn 2000.

The old communications center comprised two sections – one for police and one for the fire department – separated by a cinder block wall. A dispatcher in each area handled that department’s calls.

During renovations, the wall was removed, and the now expanded center features areas for as many as four dispatchers at a time. Each area is outfitted with a bank of computers that perform a range of functions from records management to police radio transmissions and caller identification. The computers give police the ability to replay any call, allowing police to confirm the location of calls and to review dispatchers’ responses to calls.

No fewer than two dispatchers will work a given shift, says Blicher, and all dispatchers are now professional, certified dispatchers. Previously, the fire department’s calls were handled by student workers.

The renovations and dispatcher certifications were prompted in part by legislation requiring dispatchers at all 911 dispatch centers to be certified as emergency medical dispatchers, and mandating that the communications officers on duty are able to provide a caller with information that will help them provide basic care to an injured person until an emergency medical technician arrives at the scene.

Says Blicher, “On a daily basis, the new center will provide enhanced services to the University community.”