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Police Chief Luth Asks Select Board For Two Additional Dispatchers

by Connie Sartini
   Groton Police Chief Michael Luth met with the Select Board to discuss the need for and to request two additional communications staff members based on the workload and expanding responsibilities.
   He stressed that Groton Communications Center is a Regional Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). Groton Communications that is regionalized with Dunstable for Police, Fire and EMS Dispatching services. 
  This regionalization qualifies Groton Communications to receive $270,000 in annual State 911 grants for wages, training and development. In addition, Groton receives an $83,000 annual agreement fee from Dunstable for communications services.
   There are currently six full-time staff, one supervisor that currently also fills four shifts; one permanent part-time and three per diem relief staff. On 10 shifts there is only one dispatcher and 11 shifts have two dispatchers.
   Chief Luth told the Select Board that adding one additional dispatcher will allow the Communications Supervisor an administrative day and allow for two-person coverage on four additional shifts. The additional administrative time will allow for maintaining grant eligibility, certifications EMD, Quality Assurance and Call record keeping.
   Adding two dispatchers will allow for two dispatchers for all but one shift.
   He pointed out that technology is rapidly changing which requires continued learning. He cited the increased complexity facing the Dispatch Center. 911 calls are increasing in volume due to direct cell calls and tower pick ups for Nashua and Tyngsboro which are mandatory to answer. 
  As a result of texts to 911, there are prolonged calls due to current technology and use of keyboard versus voice.
   Dunstable Fire Communications infrastructure is placing increased demands on dispatchers. And for personal time, there is currently no relief for personal needs or a meal break.
   Chief Luth cited the benefit of having two dispatchers per shift. It will allow dispatchers to handle multiple medical calls; greater support for 911 and EMD calls; the ability to meet protocols effectively for Dunstable Police/Fire and EMS to maintain regional agreement; a second dispatcher is able to handle both radio and phone traffic; each dispatcher can provide relief for one another; they can cover prisoner watch responsibilities and reduce liability by limiting opportunity for a mishandled call.
   Select Board member Becky Pine, who is the Board’s liaison to the Police and Fire Departments, likened the complex Communication Center and its technology to the cockpit of a 747. She said that after her tour of the Center, she believes that adding two additional staff to the Communications Center is a reasonable request.
   As part of the PSAP, the Communications Center provided support via radios, phone, 911, Emergency Medical Dispatch and administrative support for Groton Police, Fire and EMS; Dunstable Police, Fire and EMS and Groton and Dunstable Animal control on a 24x7 basis.
   The Communications Center has logged in excess of 40,000 calls annually over the past five years.
   Outside of normal business hours, the Communications Center is responsible for calls from both Groton and Dunstable Town Governments, utility departments, monitors security for the Police Station and surveillance of many public buildings.
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