Chesterton Tribune                                                                                   Adv.

County E911 needs improvements report says

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By AL BODIE

 At their regular Tuesday meeting the Porter County Board of Commissioners were given the results of a consultant’s study of the county’s Enhanced 911 center that recommends improvements.

The second week of April is declared National Telecommunica-tions Safety Operators week, the report acknowledged the dedication and work done by Porter county emergency operators and responders.

Daniel S. McDevitt, principle of REM corporation, summarized the reports’ findings. Attending were many of the emergency operators and responders who contributed to the study.

He assured them that his group went into this project with no preconceived ideas on what should or should not be done. He said he wanted the report to truly reflect conditions and functions of the department.

The two-month study included field interviews, observations, input from member agencies and the review of policy and procedures.

Prior to starting the Lansing Illinois based REM Management Services, McDevitt retired from the Illinois State Police as a colonel. Since retiring he has made security and emergency management his full time passion.

After the commissioners approved continued work to bring about the recommended changes, McDevitt told the board “You can look at other vendors I don’t want you to put us to work because we did this study, the important thing is that our recommendations be implemented. This could be a life or death matter.”

Completed on March 17, the study’s recommendations involve staffing, scheduling, training and written procedures.

McDevitt noted that being a 911 operator is one of the most stressful jobs he has seen. To help minimize some of this stress, REM’s suggestions include: increasing staff numbers, offering more training, improving employee recognition, reducing the centers’ background noises, and eliminating weekly shift rotations.

Currently operators change shift each week. This, noted McDevitt, is not healthy, and as a result leads to absenteeism and increased overtime expense.

APCO, Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, recommends that for a center the size of Porter County’s and with the volume of calls it handles, the staffing level should be 46 FTEs (full time equivalent employees). The county’s center current staffing level is 34.

In 2008 the Indiana State Legislature passed a bill that mandates counties have no more than two centers per county. In keeping with this requirement the Valparaiso and Portage centers were merged with the Porter County center. The study noted that these mergers resulted in a net loss of 5 full time equivalent positions.

The study also found inconsistencies with interdepartmental communications and training.

McDevitt added that, often, important information is not relayed between shifts or from co-workers to co-worker. In addition, training opportunities are not taken advantage of, with requests for training often being ignored.

He suggested training be scheduled on a regular basis and information learned be taught to those employees not able to attend. McDevitt called this process train the trainer.

Also McDevitt suggests that newly hired police and fire personnel be required to spend a shift in the center to better understand what it is that the operators do.

In addition, newly hired E911 employees are required to do a ride along with police to see how the work they do impacts the officer on patrol. 

To keep up with changing technology, it was also recommended that a capital development fund be established.

The report stopped short of telling the commissioners how to pay for these improvements. Last year the county’s E911 Director Dave Shiebels suggested an increased surcharge for landline phones be considered.

Speaking to the added expense of bringing about the recommended changes, McDevitt stopped short of advocating an increased surcharge saying, “The funded surcharge is not going to work. Its inadequate.”

An additional recommendation is to establish an advisory committee to meet regularly and discuss progress. The ten person committee would be comprised of all emergency disciplines, including police and fire chiefs, E911 operators and a commissioner.

Confirming his commitment to improving the county’s 911 center, Commissioner President John Evans R-North volunteered to be the first commissioner on the committee.

Pledging his support to the recommendations, Evans said, “This report is not going to just sit on a shelf somewhere.”

County Animal Shelter saga continues

Only weeks after placing the County’s Animal Shelter under the control of the Sheriffs Department, this week the Board of Commissioners announced it would be replacing the current shelter Director.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Board President John Evans, said that during a recent Executive session it was decided that Judy Bonaventura would be demoted to a position more in line with her talents and interests.

Bonaventura will continue as the shelter’s interim director, until a replacement is found.

The commissioners also approved a motion to consider Bonaventura as a candidate for the director opening.

In addition, the commissioners moved to eliminate a position known as the assistant director/secretary.

 

Posted 4/6/2011

 

 

 

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