A consultant's report released this week confirms that Hermosa Beach's independent 911 system is working properly after some start-up problems and operations should continue to improve as dispatchers gain more experience, Public Safety Director Steve Wisniewski said Thursday.
"There were no surprises in the report at all," he said. "Basically, it was a detailed list of things that we have been working on."
For example, he said, the city plans to hire a sixth full-time dispatcher this month, so that a two-person team can be assigned to handle calls during peak hours--a need stressed in the report.
So far, the city's dispatch center in police headquarters generally has operated with only one person on duty, he said. Part-time dispatchers can be called in for emergencies, but it may take an hour or more before they report, he said.
Concerns about 911's reliability in Hermosa Beach arose shortly after the city withdrew from the South Bay Regional Public Communications Authority in December and installed its own emergency response system.
The system failed three times in January for several hours on each occasion as a result of either equipment malfunctions or switching problems in distant telephone company facilities.
Measures were taken to overcome those problems, Wisniewski said, and the consultant was hired to help ensure the long-term reliability of the system.
In the report by the Arcadia-based Richter Group, a consultant recounted an emergency situation that he observed in the city's dispatch center in March.
"Notification came from Redondo Beach that a bank holdup suspect was making his way north on Pacific Coast Highway, and suddenly the radio and telephone both got very busy," he wrote. If a supervisor had not been on hand to help out, he noted, the dispatcher "could in no way have handled all the different facets of that operation."
He recommended scheduling at least two dispatchers for duty during busy times--a period that usually runs from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. in similar cities, he said.
The report also noted that "dispatchers urgently need training on the radio system and the consoles." Wisniewski said his dispatchers have completed their basic training and are receiving additional instruction on the operation and capabilities of the new equipment.
The report's "laundry list" of recommended improvements included better air conditioning in the dispatch room, a quieter printer, blinds or shades over the windows to reduce glare on computer screens, more protection against water and earthquake damage, a separate radio frequency and dual headset jacks at each dispatch station.
Wisniewski said these improvements have been made or are in the works. The evaluation by the consultant cost $3,500.