Chesterfield Township is rolling out a new and improved 911 dispatch center just in time for National 911 Education Month.
The township’s dispatch center, which is housed at the police station and also serves the city of New Baltimore, recently underwent a massive project that brings $500,000 worth of technology upgrades to the system. This month, the township is expected to launch its participation in Smart911, a national service that allows citizens to provide information to first responders before an emergency occurs.
“Everything starts in our 911 dispatch center,” Police Chief Brad Kersten said. “Any call for service requires information, and we have to get information instantaneously.”
Residents will be able to create a free online profile that can include photos and information related to everything from addresses, phone numbers, vehicles and emergency contacts to pets, utility shut-offs, medications and disabilities.
More than 70 percent of 911 calls are made from mobile phones, which only provide dispatchers with the phone number and a general sense of the caller’s location. All phone numbers registered with Smart911 will be recognized by the 911 system, allowing the caller’s profile to be viewed by the dispatcher who receives the call.
“The more information that we can bring in and provide to the first responders — that’s key,” Kersten said. “And the faster you do that, the quicker you have the ability to assess the situation.”
In one case, the service shaved 11 minutes off response time, saving the life of a Michigan man who was trapped in a house fire, Smart911’s website states. Names, physical descriptions and photos can also help responders act quickly if a child goes missing and can help police, fire or EMS personnel identify individuals in an emergency.
Roughly 45,000 emergency calls come into the Chesterfield Township Police Dispatch Center each year, with about 130 calls for service being taken each day, Kersten said. The most frequently received calls are related to minor property and retail crimes, followed by traffic complaints and accidents. Civil disputes also top the list.
“We are a very, very safe community,” the chief noted. “Our violent crimes are very low.”
Still, in a community with its entire eastern boundary along Lake St. Clair and its 26 square miles encompassing residential neighborhoods, apartment complexes, retail and major roadways, the 911 system is crucial.
“There’s always something happening,” Kersten said.
Upgrades at the dispatch center began about a year ago. A large part of the project involved upgrading infrastructure, which included replacing old copper wiring with a new fiber network that links the station to other township buildings.
“We have a completely modern 911 system,” Kersten said.
Even the dispatch center, itself, is prepared for an emergency. A backup 911 system is housed at the fire station on 23 Mile Road.
“If something happens to this building, we have the ability to transfer our entire operations over to the fire station,” Kersten said. “So there shouldn’t be any delays in service and we can continue to function.”
The department has been providing public safety dispatch service in the township and the city of New Baltimore since the mid-1980s. Today, the dispatch center is staffed at all times by at least two of the township’s 10 dispatchers in 12-hour shifts.