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Madison officials have serious concerns about 911 dispatch center

By Emily Kumlien, ekumlien@wisctv.com
Published On: Feb 18 2014 08:59:57 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 19 2014 07:33:22 PM CST

Madison's interim police chief, fire chief and mayor all said they have serious concerns about the Dane County 911 dispatch center.

MADISON, Wis. -

Madison's interim police chief, fire chief and mayor all said they have serious concerns about the Dane County 911 dispatch center.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin wrote a five-page letter to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi outlining 32 incidents in which response times caused problems.

"This is not a question of compromise or getting along. There is zero tolerance for these mistakes," Soglin said.

Soglin said dispatcher decisions and technical issues with the new, computer-aided dispatch, which was installed last spring, are causing delays in getting police and fire crews to the emergencies.

"I think we have been very patient, and at this point we have no choice but to accelerate the discussion," Soglin said.

In the report Soglin said the delays could have resulted in loss of life or property because crews have been sent to the wrong address or not relayed the correct information.

The interim police chief and fire chief also said slow response times could have been avoided.

"At this point we have documents of where it has taken well over an hour for those fire vehicles to help solve the issues. We are not happy about that," Madison Fire Chief Steven Davis said.

"There needs to be a sense of urgency from all levels of government and come to the table right now and get this issue resolved as quickly as possible," interim police Chief Randy Gaber said.

John Dejung is the director of the Dane County Communications center. While not in attendance, Dejung believes there was an unnecessary and "high level of franticness" at the press conference.

"We do not have a public safety system that is failing. We have issues that we are resolving on a day-to-day basis. We have to continue improving opportunities," Dejung said.

Dejung said the dispatchers are well-trained and doing their best, and the list of 32 complaints noted over the past 10 months doesn't show the whole story.

"So that is about three per month if you average it out, and that is three more than I am comfortable with, but in the context of the 400,000 911 calls and 300,000 dispatches, I want to remind the public we don't have a public safety crisis," Dejung said. "We need to continue improvement. I want to get back to the grindstone and not be distracted by sideshows that should not have to happen."

The Dane County 911 Center is just one of seven in the world that is a triple-accredited Center of Excellence given by the International Academy of Emergency Dispatch.

Dejung said he meets weekly with police and fire officials. Their next meeting is Wednesday.

He also said all those 32 incidents in the report were reviewed with staff.

Parisi released a statement Wednesday saying he is not happy with Soglin’s approach to the issues with the 911 center.

Parisi accused Soglin of using “gotcha” politics, and said the problems are growing pains from the new computer-aided dispatch system that was installed last year.

He also said both city and county staff have been working through the problems, and that he’ll accommodate Soglin’s idea of Madison possibly having its own 911 center.

“Right now the county does that for the city. We pay for that 100 percent with county taxpayer dollars. The city of Madison doesn’t contribute anything toward that. If the mayor would like to take that on, that’s his prerogative, and we’ll be cooperative with that transition if that’s what he deems is best for the city,” Parisi said.

Parisi said some of the mayor’s issues mentioned Tuesday are outdated and have already been addressed.

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