Eighteen fire districts and their fire dispatchers transitioned to South Sound 911’s unified computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system yesterday, marking the first time both fire and law enforcement responders in Pierce County have been on the same system. Nineteen law enforcement agencies began using the same CAD system in October 2015.

Though the move to the new dispatch system is a major milestone toward unified dispatch services for first responders in Pierce County, 911 callers will not yet notice a difference.

“Getting both police and fire responders from 37 agencies onto the same dispatch system, in terms of technology, is a major accomplishment by itself,” Executive Andrew Neiditz said. “But, this is the first step. We still need to streamline dispatch operations, to share processes so callers will benefit from collaboration and more efficient call handling.”

For fire and medical aid calls, a 911 call will still be transferred to fire dispatchers, as has been the process in Pierce County. The new CAD system allows for the sharing of information collected from the initial call, such as the incident location or address; however, for the time being, fire dispatchers will still enter information for their responders separately.

Currently, South Sound 911 operates two primary 911 centers for law enforcement, and fire dispatch is provided by two secondary centers, West Pierce Fire & Rescue’s Fire Comm and Tacoma Fire Communications. Fire Comm dispatchers are expected to become part of South Sound 911 in January, and a plan is being developed to migrate Tacoma Fire Communications to the new unified CAD system in the near future.

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