The Communications Division has undergone a remarkable transformation over the past five years. Where it used to be staffed by nine sworn officers that handled mainly police matters, the division is now comprised of 17 civilian telecommunicators that handle police, fire, and emergency medical dispatch while under the command of Lieutenant Mark Morello. In the old system, emergency calls were answered by police officers and then forwarded to the Fire Department dispatcher if fire services were required.
By consolidating the responsibilities of fire dispatch and police dispatch, the process of getting the necessary emergency services to any situation within the City of Bristol has been streamlined. An added benefit to replacing the police officers and firefighters with specially trained civilians is the reassignment of the police and fire personnel to places where their training and experience can be better utilized.
In 2007, the Communications Division handled over 85,000 9-1-1 calls, dispatched more than 60,000 police calls, 2500 fire calls, and handled more than 5,000 medical emergency calls. In order to prepare for this call volume, telecommunicators are required to undergo a rigorous 10 week training program that includes the use of E911 equipment, the computer assisted dispatch (CAD) system, CCTV systems, and the city’s new 800 MHz trunked radio system.
Emergency Medical Dispatch
The citizens of Bristol have also benefited from the implementation of the emergency medical dispatch system. Prior to July 1, 2004, if a person called 9-1-1 for a medical emergency the dispatcher would jot down some basic information and then call an ambulance. He would then dispatch a police officer and the call would be over for the dispatcher.
With the advent of Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD), the dispatcher has become the "first" first responder. The dispatchers are now trained to use a pre-scripted protocol to provide instructions to the caller so that the caller can begin providing help to the victim prior to the arrival of police or ambulance personnel.