Monday, July 10, 2017
[San Joaquin County] Grand jury says fire dispatch should consolidate: ‘Our citizens deserve better’
Saying that egos and politics are getting in the way of public safety, the San Joaquin County civil grand jury this week called for the consolidation of two separate emergency fire dispatch centers.
Most local fire agencies support having just one dispatch center, the grand jury said.
But it’s never happened.
“This is a significant leadership issue,” the grand jury concluded in its report. “Our citizens deserve better.”
The grand jury cited “egos, politics and fear of change,” without naming names. The report blamed agencies for failing to negotiate and find a solution over many years.
Today, the Stockton Fire Department’s own public dispatch system handles most of the urban areas of the county, including Stockton, Lodi, Tracy, Manteca, and the Lathrop-Manteca Fire District.
The Valley Regional Emergency Communications Center in Salida, which is operated by the private company American Medical Response, handles calls for 13 mostly rural fire districts and dispatches all ambulances within San Joaquin County.
The two dispatch centers use different communication systems that sometimes conflict with each other, resulting in “serious public safety issues,” the grand jury found.
Valley Regional offers state-of-the-art technology that is better than Stockton’s, the grand jury found, and can offer its services cheaper. The report cites a consultant’s finding in 2014 that Stockton could save $1.25 million by using AMR to handle fire emergency calls.
A city of Stockton spokeswoman declined immediate comment Thursday, saying the grand jury’s report would have to be reviewed. The city is one of 19 local agencies and fire districts required to respond to the report within 90 days.
The issue of dispatching emergency calls became hotly controversial one decade ago after county supervisors awarded AMR an exclusive contract to dispatch ambulances. Stockton sued, but a judge later sided with the county.
“A long history of litigation between the county and the city of Stockton, (and) politics and egos has hampered resolution of these differences,” the grand jury reported.
Dan Burch, administrator of the county’s Emergency Medical Services agency, said the county has approached the city several times about merging dispatch centers, but the city has declined.
“This is something we’ve been trying to achieve since 2006,” Burch said.
July 6, 2017
By Alex Breitler