Few hiccups due to combined dispatching

Few hiccups due to combined dispatching

NORTH PROVIDENCE – The first full week of joint emergency dispatching services between North Providence and Pawtucket went “better than expected” last week, said Communications Director Ralph Nahigian.

Though there were some bumps in the road, he said, dispatchers from Pawtucket and North Providence were doing a great job learning each other’s systems and handling the calls. No calls were missed, he said, and none took too long to answer.

Making a smooth transition to a combined dispatching center at the North Providence Public Safety Complex more impressive was the fact that responders were fielding about 10 times the regular volume of calls due to concerns about the COVID-19 crisis, he said. That included a lot of questions that didn’t necessitate emergency responses.

One issue, said Nahigian, were some alert tones going to the wrong fire stations in the two neighboring communities, but personnel were able to “instantly figure that it’s wrong and they disregarded” those alerts.

The hardest aspects of the process, said Nahigian, has been training existing Pawtucket dispatchers on North Providence’s equipment and learning Pawtucket’s operational procedures.

Four groups of dispatchers have a mix of personnel from Pawtucket and North Providence, he said, and they’re cross-training each other quickly.

During the first week of combined service, there were four building fires in Pawtucket, he said, and dispatchers did a great job of making sure the right personnel were sent out. A veteran North Providence dispatcher handled the whole fire channel, he said, and did a great job with just one day of experience in Pawtucket.

No matter how experienced the dispatcher, he said, the experience of responding to calls is different because of how the communities differ on various routines and processes.

All dispatchers are under a tremendous amount of pressure, he said, not just from receiving more calls but from worries related to family members being laid off.

“The phone won’t stop ringing,” he said.

All calls are being screened with a series of questions so rescue personnel can be properly notified about certain steps to take, he said. All calls that come in immediately issue an alert for the community they’re coming from, he said.