Spokane Valley Fire District is considering a plan to join the city fire department in a consolidated dispatch center.
Under the proposal, the dispatch centers would merge by Jan. 1, saving Valley Fire more than $1 million over the next 10 years, Valley Fire Chief Pat Humphries said.
Some kinks still need to be worked out, however. To ensure the quality of service remains the same, Valley Fire officials want to set a 60-second dispatch standard, meaning fire trucks are out the door within a minute of the time the phone rings in the dispatch center, Humphries said. City fire officials, however, want to set the standard at 75 seconds.
“I see the wisdom of (consolidated dispatch) - absolutely,” said Ray Allen, a Valley Fire commissioner. “I also see the comfort zone we are in because we have a good dispatch center in and of itself.
“The costs of the dispatch center will grow and grow and grow over the next few years. This is one way to cut some of those costs.”
Members of the union representing Valley firefighters are hesitant to back the plan because they are unsure how it will effect them.
“Local 876 is not supporting combined dispatch at this time because we don’t have any answers to any questions,” said union representative Larry Rider.
However, Rider said the union has not rejected consolidation, adding the union is “waiting patiently.”
The combined dispatch center would be housed in the existing city facility and use its equipment, eliminating the need for an initial capital outlay.
Humphries said city Fire Chief Bobby Williams would be in charge of the consolidated center. A manager, appointed from the city, would report to Williams and run the center.
The consolidation plan calls for four of the six Valley dispatchers to transfer to the city dispatch center and become city fire department employees. The remaining two dispatchers would be reassigned within Valley Fire as firefighters.
“Our dispatchers are firefighters as well as dispatchers,” Humphries said.
The dispatch center at Valley Fire Station 1 would be maintained as an alternate dispatch center. It could also be used side-by-side with the main center as a command post during an emergency, such as Firestorm ‘91, Humphries said.
“I think with some suggested changes and the opportunity to renegotiate certain items, the board will be more open to it,” Humphries said.
Valley Fire commissioners have until August 31 to make a decision.
“Each (side) will have to give up some control and build up a trust in each other to make it work,” Humphries said.
Allen remained undecided if it can work.
“We’ve got to weigh the question mark of money over the quality of dispatching,” he said. “Right now if you asked me to vote, I’m not sure how I would vote.”