Dispatch Center takes calls for nine counties

Department experiences 'standard growing pains' as training, new equipment mesh

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People expect some questions when they call for assistance or emergency aid, but most are not prepared to hear "What county are you in?"

If someone were to make an emergency call in Northwest Colorado, that's a question they now have to answer. Dispatch responsibilities for the area have been centralized in the Moffat County Public Safety Center (PSC), which houses the Colorado State Patrol Regional Dispatch Center. Dispatchers there regularly ask that question, since they direct officers and services in nine counties in Northwest Colorado as part of their responsibilities.

In the first stages of planning for the PSC, the Moffat County Commissioners asked that the Colorado State Patrol Call Center be located here.

The Regional Dispatch Center has been stationed and active in the Public Safety Center since July 9.

The center handles calls for the Craig Police Department, Moffat County Sheriff's Department, the Colorado State Patrol, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), and "any federal agency that opts to use us," said Regional Communications Manager Lynnette Stieb-Sorensen. And, the center handles similar agencies in eight other counties.

The dispatch center covers Moffat, Routt, Jackson, Grand, Eagle, Rio Blanco, Garfield, Summit and Pitkin counties. With this responsibility, plus the necessity of blending new equipment and replacement parts with existing technology, the dispatchers, old and new, face a daily challenge of training, education and application while performing their actual duties.

"We've had some growing pains. This is a learning process for us learning the process and the equipment," Stieb-Sorensen said. "Handling all the calls from the nine counties, plus the new software and consoles there's more or less going to be growing pains with all of this as we mesh them together."

Even with all the new duties and information that has to be assimilated and applied, the dispatch center has handled its new responsibilities without major incident.

"We've all lived through it, no one's been hurt and that's thanks to the combined effort of all the people involved," Stieb-Sorensen said. "For the first couple of days [of the transfer to the PSC], we manned three different stations, putting in some long hours. As we put this entire system together, we're working out the glitches. With a project this complex, it's to be expected."

Covering just the Colorado State Patrol, dispatchers are working with 65 officers of various rank, servicing Troops 4B, 4C and 6B, covering all the nine counties.

"We have collected all sorts of research materials from other offices the Vail P.D., the Pitkin Sheriff's Office so we can have a reference for the areas we're dealing with including subdivision information, information on the [law enforcement] offices, the county, the cities," Stieb-Sorensen said. "The five people we have in training go to class, then do some on-the-job training. They're also going on ride-alongs with troopers before assuming their duties here in dispatch."

The full compliment of personnel will be six dispatchers and one supervisor on duty at a time, overseen by Stieb-Sorensen. The shifts will be shared between eight dispatchers and two supervisors. Once the people who are in training come on full time, the more experienced dispatchers will rotate out to participate in ride alongs in the new areas they are responsible for.

Stieb-Sorensen credits the success of the transition to her employees.

"I am very lucky to have the employees that I have. If it wasn't for these employees, this whole system would not have meshed," she said. "It just shows how important they really are, for without dispatchers, there would be no notification, no one to direct the officers and resources to where they're needed."

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