The boards from Snohomish County’s two emergency dispatch centers — SNOCOM and SNOPAC — on Thursday voted to consolidate the county’s two 9-1-1 centers, effective Jan. 1, 2018.
Both SNOCOM, located in Mountlake Terrace, and SNOPAC, in Everett, were founded in the 1970s and are staffed 24 hours a day to answer police, fire and related emergency calls. SNOCOM serves roughly 30 percent of Snohomish County’s population while SNOPAC serves about 70 percent.
For more than a year and half, elected officials and staff from the County’s two 9-1-1 agencies, police and fire agencies, and SERS (emergency radio system), have been studying whether to consolidate the two Snohomish County dispatch centers into a single agency. A joint task force was formed looking at ways to improve service and reduce costs while maintaining system resiliency and redundancy. The task force also wanted to develop a governance model that represented the interests of the community, first responders and employees of SNOCOM and SNOPAC.
According to an announcement from the SNOCOM 9-1-1 Executive Director Terry Peterson, consolidation is the first step toward eliminating the 45,000 to 50,000 9-1-1 transfers that occur between the two centers each year. “With today’s technology some 911 transfers are unavoidable, however the sheer volume of transfers between SNOPAC and SNOCOM was something everyone wanted to address,” the announcement said.
In addition, the newly approved agreement includes a projected cost savings of nearly $1 million annually.
“Careful analysis and consideration has shown that this consolidation will improve overall responsiveness to emergency calls while also allowing for substantial cost savings. Doing things better and more efficiently makes this the right choice for the taxpayers of Snohomish County,” said Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring.
Early on in this study, the boards agreed that any labor reductions would occur over time through attrition and that there would be no layoffs.
“The professional police and fire 9-1-1 operators at SNOCOM and SNOPAC work behind the scenes to get the public the help they need and protect our first responders,” said SNOPAC Director Kurt Mills.
“It’s a critical mission and so it was important that our employees didn’t have to worry about job security while the study was completed,” added SNOCOM Director Terry Peterson.
The SNOPAC call center — located in the same building as the Everett Police Department South Precinct — is large enough to accommodate both operations for the next 10 years. Additional parking would be required, as would renovation of vacant building space for additional offices.
The SNOCOM facility in Mountlake Terrace will remain as a “warm backup” so it could be used in case of emergencies. Warm backup is described as maintaining the Mountlake Terrace location as it is, with existing equipment and a functioning power and water supply — but without employees.
In Thursday’s announcement, SNOPAC Board Chair and Fire District 7 Assistant Fire Chief Steve Guptill expressed his appreciation to the staff at both dispatch centers, the two boards, and police and fire agencies who “have placed public safety above all other interests with this merger. We are eager to complete this transition and continue to look for additional ways to improve our public safety system in Snohomish County.”
“Both SNOCOM and SNOPAC have a long and esteemed history of service to our County and by joining forces we will continue that legacy together,” said SNOCOM Board Chair and Mountlake Terrace Mayor Jerry Smith.
In 2017, these two centers answer approximately 1,800 calls a day and provide dispatch services to 49 police and fire agencies serving a population of nearly 775,000 within Snohomish County.