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Poland fire dispatch to move to Austintown

Saves relay calls to send responders

POLAND — Beginning July 1, a contract between the Western Reserve Joint Fire District and Austintown Township will take effect for fire and emergency medical service calls.

Fire district board members voted recently in favor of the contract, which officials say is a step toward making the calling and dispatching process more efficient.

The move to Austintown dispatch will cost the fire district $35,000 annually.

“The ultimate goal is the elimination of the first call. We want that first call to be dispatch,” Ed Kempers, chair of the fire board and Poland Township trustee, said. “We want our fire and police to have one call.”

Currently, for a Poland resident:

• A 911 call goes to Boardman dispatch, where a dispatcher asks about the nature of the emergency: fire, EMS or police.

• Police calls are dispatched immediately from the Boardman dispatch center to Poland Township and village police departments, but fire or medical calls are then sent to AMR — American Medical Response Inc. medical transportation — a private, nationwide company.

• AMR then sends out a tone to the fire district. For medical, AMR will respond and say the level of care for the call. If it is a large or severe call, the fire district also will respond. Even for lower-level calls, fire and EMS personnel still will respond if available, as the department is volunteer.

Data with AMR is not tracked.

Prior to AMR, Poland fire and EMS were dispatched through Gold Cross and Rural Metro.

AMR does not charge the district for dispatching services.

Youngstown and AMR were in negotiations a few years ago regarding ambulance services. It appeared AMR would possibly leave the area if it didn’t have the Youngstown contract, district fire Chief David “Chip” Comstock said. That’s when he began wondering what would happen if AMR, a private company, were to leave. “We were tied to AMR through dispatch,” Comstock said.

LOOKED ELSEWHERE

After discussions with some dispatching centers in Mahoning County did not pan out, Comstock looked elsewhere. Initially, no one would take on Poland fire, leaving him “concerned.”

Ultimately, the decision was made to go with Austintown dispatch.

Jim Davis, Austintown Township trustee, said the collaboration “is a great thing.”

“The more people we’ve got involved with this regional dispatching that we’ve been able to do, it’s helped across the Mahoning Valley to keep everything uniform,” Davis said.

“It’s a huge win-win. We can access Chief Comstock if we need, and we can provide (WRJFD) the service of dispatch,” Davis said.

The fire board has requested formally that Mahoning County commissioners eliminate call transfers for Poland residents by year’s end. It is a trajectory to have both police and fire for all of Poland dispatched from the same center, Comstock said.

UNITING

“We’re going to try to unite, eventually, our police and fire,” Comstock said. The move to Austintown “is the first big step to that direction,” he said.

The sentiment was echoed by Mahoning County Comissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti. “It’s a move in the right direction,” she said. “This is a long process. There are a lot of moving parts,” Rimedio-Righetti said.

The move to Austintown not only will eliminate the additional call between someone calling 911 and having help on the way, but it also will make it easier for distpatchers.

Notes taken during the call from a dispatcher will be transferred from the initial call to Austintown, Comstock said.

“Everybody sees the information at the same time,” using a computer-aided dispatch system, Kempers said. AMR doesn’t see the initial notes taken by Boardman dispatch.

Eric Ungaro, board member and township trustee, said the move is a way to set things in motion to improve emergency calls for residents the district serves.

“To get where we’re going, we drew a line in the sand. We are one step above ‘bad,'” Ungaro said.

Comstock said it doesn’t matter where all of dispatching for Poland ends up, but it should be together so the call transfer is eliminated.

Still, the board asking commissioners to make the move to have all of Poland first responders dispatched from the same place is unique.

“I think the significance is, the board is one of the first” to commit verbally to getting dispatch in one place for first responders, Ungaro said.

Eventually the conversation could shift to centralized dispatch in the county, or dividing the county east and west, Kempers said, for example. The bottom line is the safety of residents, he said.

afox@tribtoday.com

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