By Amanda Ensinger
The Prairie Township Fire Department will explore options for outsourcing its dispatching services.
In a statement to the trustees, read at a recent meeting, Prairie Township Assistant Fire Chief Allen Scott said the department is in the process of looking to outsource their communications in an effort to provide safer and more efficient service to township residents and first responders.
“The township is forced to pursue outsourcing because the need for extensive equipment and technology upgrades, as well as staffing level shortfalls,” Scott said. “The radios and other electronic equipment hardware and software used by the current, in-house operations, is out of date making it less effective than what is used by other departments.”
Scott said that Franklin County and the state of Ohio are moving toward 911 systems that can hone in on calls and texts from wireless devices.
“Only certain communication centers are designed to be wireless centers and Prairie Township is far from having the capacity to be on this list,” Scott said.
Scott also said that the department lacks the staff to meet the dispatching needs of the township.
“Guidelines state that there should be more than one communications tech, or dispatch, in the facility at all times,” he said. “With the township’s small scale operations, this is neither affordable nor physically possible.”
Scott said the board has authorized the fire department to explore other options, including outsourcing this service.
When asked what will happen to the current township dispatchers, Scott was vague.
“I don’t know that answer,” Scott said. “No one has any intention of opening the door and booting anyone out.”
However, Scott said there is no way the township can fix these issues.
“The township would be hard pressed to get its dispatching operations up to speed regarding any one of these factors,” he said. “We have a huge safety problem.”
If township officials could fix the technology issues, they are still too short staffed.
“The only way to fix the dispatcher issue is to double our staffing budget,” he said.
While there is no set timeline for this, the township already has been speaking with several companies.
Residents asked if the township would continue to have to pay for dispatching if they go with an outside vendor and Scott said yes.
“We would still have to pay for dispatchers, we would just pay someone else to provide this service,” Scott said. “The benefit is that the service would be exponentially improved.”