The Glendale Board of Aldermen is taking a close look at the city’s current fire dispatching service to determine what options exist for improving it.

On Aug. 5, the board heard a report from Alderman Aaron Nauman, chairman of the dispatch subcommittee.

The primary issues that need to be addressed are national standards that call for having two dispatchers at all times and specialized emergency medical and fire dispatch training, he said. Glendale only staffs one dispatch employee on each shift and does not hold emergency medical or fire dispatching certifications.

Flyers sent to residents from the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 2665, which represents the city’s firefighters, has prompted increased resident participation in board meetings, frequent social media posts and more in regard to the issue of dispatching, Nauman said.

He said a more active review of the state of fire dispatch is warranted and timely with recent completion of an audit by the Insurance Services Office (ISO). The ISO creates ratings for fire departments and their communities of how well equipped the departments are to put out fires.

In first quarter 2019 data used as a basis for the subcommittee’s study, ­ 50 fire calls were dispatched with six flagged as not compliant with ISO standards. Of those, four weren’t compliant based in regard to time and the other two were not compliant based on staffing/mutual aid time.

Strengths of the current dispatching system include dispatchers who are intimately familiar with the operations of the city, high resident customer service feedback, and long tenure, Nauman said.

The current computer-aided dispatch system would allow some add-on features to be purchased to enhance the dispatch process, Nauman said.

Installing dispatch software that would provide immediate system improvement is expected to cost $1,500 in setup and $1,728 in annual maintenance costs.

Nauman presented four options for the city to consider in the near future:

  • Outsourcing fire dispatch (with a potential new ambulance provider) and keeping police dispatch at an estimated cost of $25,000 to $71,000 a year, based on whether Kirkwood dispatching or Central 911 Dispatching are used.
  •  Deferring a fire department decision and expanding the scope of the study to include the police department.
  •  Retaining and enhancing both police and fire dispatch at estimated costs ranging from $3,000 to $257,000 per year.
  • Outsourcing both police and fire dispatch at an estimated cost, ­ if Kirkwood dispatching is used, of $260,000 per year.

“All options will cost us something unless we outsource everything,” Nauman said.

The next step is for the city to determine actual savings of various options. That number will be contingent upon further review of residual costs that will remain, such as access to the Regional Justice Information System, which provides law enforcement database information.

“My perspective is that we’re overdue in deciding this issue,” Nauman said. “We need to do something imminently. We keep kicking the can down the street. We need to make some decisions.

“The reality is that it is expensive to provide certain services, and we have to make some tough calls going forward. But we look at everything through the prism of safety. And if a partnership doesn’t make sense, then we don’t do it,” Nauman added.