Twp. Emergency Officials Speak Against Shared Dispatch with County

Police, firefighters and EMTs spoke against a shared service with the county at Monday's council meeting.

Washington Township police, fire fighters and EMTs told the mayor and council Monday that entering an emergency dispatching shared service agreement with Bergen County will increase response time, potentially endangering the safety of township residents.

"I'm not talking about saving jobs, I'm talking about saving lives," Fire Chief Jamie Powell said.

The township is currently exploring several possibilities for , including joining the county's dispatch service or creating which will handle dispatching for Westwood, River Vale, Old Tappan and Washington Township.

According to Powell, township dispatchers can currently send out police to an emergency in fewer than 10 seconds.

"If Bergen County comes to a meeting and gives you the same 10-second dispatch response time, they're lying to you," Powell said.

Because 911 calls dialed from cell phones often go to the county dispatch center in Mahwah, local police, firefighters and EMTs already have experience working with county dispatchers. Several emergency responders shared stories of dealing with the county during Monday's council meeting.

According to township Police Officer Vincent Montalbano, the county dispatched a call as "an elderly party that fell down." When he arrived at the resident's home, he discovered that she had a heart attack, was not breathing and had no pulse. With help from another officer and an EMT, they revived the woman, but she died later that day. According to Montalbano, the woman's son said he spent about 10 minutes trying to reach the county dispatch.

"To this day, I'm still bothered by it," Montalbano said.

In another incident, Montalbano said a county dispatcher called Westwood police for a call at , which is actually in Washington Township. A Westwood dispatcher then had to call the township to send them to the scene.

Some officials said they thought an agreement between local municipalities would be an acceptable plan.

"We would rather have a system with our neighbors, where the police officers and firefighters can cooperate," firefighter Jim Zaconie said.

Zaconie is one of three county coordinators in the Pascack Valley with a county radio in the trunk of his car for organizing multi-department responses to emergencies. According to Zaconie, his radio stopped working for about six hours in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene.

Township officials said they are still exploring their options and will consider quality before entering a share service agreement.

"It's not all about saving money," Councilman Steve Cascio said. "It's about getting quality operations at a fair price."

Cascio said he had been "embarrassed" when no emergency officials came to a meeting with county officials to discuss possible shared services earlier this month. Mayor Janet Sobkowicz noted that local and county emergency officials have met on numerous other occasions. They have scheduled another meeting for April 3.

LivinLocal March 28, 2012 at 02:16 AM
Why is there all this supposition of threats to "the safety of township residents." With all the towns that are currently using the county system, aren't there any statistics that can verify whether voiced concerns are reasonable?
resident March 28, 2012 at 03:51 PM
The police officers statements of course can raise concern. It is possible that some quirks need to be fixed, but I'm sure they can be overcome with the proper communication. The time for change has come. I agree.. what is all this supposition of threats. Could be be all about saving jobs?
Carey Grant March 28, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Why is Westwood Regional in Washington Township? Why isn't the Township recognized AT ALL in the school name? The kids from the town go there. They don't live in Westwood. All the other regional schools take other names..Pasckack Hills Regional, Pascack Valley Regional, Indian Hills etc. Why do we have to get stuck telling everybody we go to Westwood? Just saying....
michael woods May 26, 2012 at 03:03 PM
I would like to make a few comments as I did on another similar post regarding county dispatching. From the above statement from the Fire Chief, "According to Powell, township dispatchers can currently send out police to an emergency in fewer than 10 seconds. "If Bergen County comes to a meeting and gives you the same 10-second dispatch response time, they're lying to you," Powell said. How is this possible? Let me explain. A Washington Twp resident calls 911 and says my father is unconscious on the floor. The officer/dispatcher says we will be right there and I assume disconnects from the caller. As he then calls officers on the radio to respond, pages out the volunteer ambulance, and calls the Miccom for paramedic services. And he his correct, the call is a matter of seconds. But that means they are not following state guidelines and provide the caller with pre-arrival instructions, unless the officer puts the caller on hold, dispatchers all emergency services then gets back on the phone to give instructions. Unfortunately, that was not the intent of designing the E911 system. With the county, the call taker can stay on the line, give pre arrival instructions while help is on the way. That is how it is suppose to work. And with the call the officer is reporting a person down and it was a cardiac arrest, what is the whole story? Did the county caller taker do proper interrogation of the caller as required by state guidelines?
michael woods May 26, 2012 at 03:12 PM
With many medical aide calls, you are dependent upon the callers information for accuracy. Many medical calls come in as one thing and end up being something else, specially with 3rd party callers. The only part of the article I agree with is the call at the high school. it does help greatly that the call taker is familiar with the area he handles. Otherwise they must relay on mapping and the cell phone capabilities with their GPS. Most cellular 911 calls get directly routed to the proper PSAP, as Verizon, AT&T have upgraded their technology. Few cellular calls go to the county now.


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