Municipal officials showed off a $5.8 million new emergency communication centers at the Frank X. Graves Public Safety Complex on Wednesday morning that is expected to speed up police and fire response time.
Emergency calls will be received at the unified communications center, which brings dispatch for police, fire, ambulance, and public works under one roof, eliminating the need to transfer calls.
“Today we’re consolidating, centralizing, digitizing, doing things we should be doing in the 21st century,” said mayor Andre Sayegh.
Paterson handles approximately 200,000 emergency calls, said fire chief Brian McDermott. Police receive 150,000, emergency medical service (EMS) gets 40,000, and fire receives 10,000 each year.
McDermott said a call for fire would previously go to police dispatch and then police would have to transfer to fire dispatch, delaying response.
“That delay is gone,” said the chief.
Officials said the massive upgrade also includes terminals for police and fire vehicles. Vehicles are also equipped with GPS, allowing dispatchers to see where all the units are on a digital map.
“This is state of the art,” said public safety director Jerry Speziale.
Speziale began the effort to modernize the communications system under former mayor Jose “Joey” Torres. There were serious “failures” and “deficiencies” with the old communications system.
The City Council borrowed funds for the upgrades in 2016. The council then awarded contracts for the work in 2017.
McDermott said antiquated infrastructure and Covid-19 delayed the implementation of the communications center.
“It’s a spider web to put together,” he said.
The system began operating on June 15. Just three days earlier, the older system, which was 30 years old, suddenly crashed, said McDermott and Speziale.
Officials said the terminals in the vehicles will allow police to pull up dispatch history of addresses. It also allows auto-filling of names and other information to speed up report writing for officers.
McDermott said the communications center will eventually be moved to Pennsylvania Avenue. He said the Pennsylvania Avenue communications center is currently being built. Some equipment will remain at the police headquarters as back up, he said.