By Joshua Molina
Noozhawk Staff Writer
Santa Barbara will join other jurisdictions in the county to create a combined Regional Fire Communications Facility.
The city expects to pay about $756,000 to be part of the single communications facility designed to improve response times for fire calls.
The council voted 6-0 on Tuesday, Oct. 6, to move forward with a five-year contract to share the technology.
“This is absolutely the best thing for the community,” Fire Chief Chris Mailes said.
The jurisdictions that will be part of the group include Santa Barbara County Fire, the Santa Maria Fire Department, the Montecito Fire Protection District and the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District. The Lompoc Fire Department is expected to jump on board in the coming weeks as well, Mailes said.
Mailes said the current system is outdated and “fragmented.” The systems don’t have electronic access to one another in order to see other agencies and who is available to help with a fire.
“It would be like having Verizon and AT&T as your cell phone providers, but they can’t talk to each other,” Mailes said.
What that means is often when someone calls 911 for medical help, the firefighting crew that responds isn’t always the closest in terms of geography. With the new system, the closest team will respond, regardless of jurisdiction.
“We will have fire-centric, expert emergency dispatchers with expert interrogation dispatchers,” Mailes said. “There will be robust staffing for major incidents.”
Santa Barbara County will pay for the regional dispatch center, which includes the building design and construction, all telephone and computer aided dispatch, equipment, hiring and training of all dispatchers, and logistics from county departments. The city’s commitment includes an annual payment based on a per-call basis.
The total calls for service in Santa Barbara have increased from 10,620 to 11,347 annually.
Mailes said the new dispatch center will be placed next to the county office of emergency services building, 4408 Cathedral Oaks Road.
Members of the Santa Barbara City Council praised the plan.
“The closest, most available help will be coming, regardless of jurisdiction,” Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon said. “True fire knows no jurisdiction, and really it’s the front lines for our whole city to be safe. Regardless of jurisdiction, the closest truck will come.”