Industry Trend: Consolidated Services

There is a growing trend in the public safety field. Agencies across the United States, of all sizes and types, are moving toward consolidated services for their public safety needs.  But what are consolidated services, and what are the benefits?

If a community is using consolidated services, it simply means that they are sharing resources. For example, some agencies are consolidating public safety services by forming regionalized police departments and dispatch centers that handle calls for multiple jurisdictions. Another way that agencies are consolidating services is by sharing a single public safety software system for their records management and dispatching needs.

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Why are more agencies moving toward consolidated services? For many agencies, the biggest reason is the opportunity to save money. As budgets shrink and demands on community infrastructures increase, agencies are looking for ways they can maximize their resources. Sharing public safety services is one way to do this. For example, recent research has shown that by consolidating services, cities can save up to $10 per emergency call.*

Consolidating services isn’t a decision that agencies can enter into lightly, though. If they consider moving toward consolidation with other agencies, they need to answer some basic questions. Could agencies lose the autonomy to manage themselves? Will agencies using a consolidated system be able to work together efficiently? Will consolidation help or hurt agencies’ response times?

If agencies plan to share a single public safety software system, they will need to find a solution that fits all of their needs. Will the agencies’ components work together seamlessly? Will agency staff feel confident they can use the system to do their jobs safely and effectively? Can data be shared quickly, efficiently, and securely? Will data be hosted on one database, or will multiple databases be required?

There are many challenges agencies face when consolidating public safety services, but as Sheriff Shaun Golden of the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office learned, consolidating services can have major benefits for a community.

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Government leaders in Monmouth County decided to consolidate services as a way to help individual communities save tax dollars. As a result, agencies from all around Monmouth County will be saving thousands of dollars each year by sharing services, including dispatch and records management services.

One of the main focuses of the project will be a centralized dispatch location for the entire county. Participating agencies will also be able to share data using a single integrated public safety software system. By storing data on a single server, they’ll be saving hardware costs, as well as the costs of server maintenance and database administration.

Golden and the other agencies in Monmouth are anticipating that once their centralized dispatch center is completed that they will gain efficiency but not have to give up control over critical data or compromise agency response times. In fact, the agencies expect that the system will help them share critical data and serve their communities better.

“We had a dozen disparate CAD management and record systems,” Golden said. “Bringing all of that under one roof will certainly improve our operations because we’ll be sharing one truly unified database. At the end of the day, it comes down to economics, sharing resources and decreasing costs.”

In conclusion, agencies interested in sharing services have a lot to talk about. Consolidating public safety services requires trust, cooperation, and a willingness to work toward shared goals. But the rewards can be measured in significant cost savings for the community.

*San Mateo County Civil Grand Jury, “Does San Mateo County Need 13 Separate Police Dispatch Centers?:” http://www.sanmateocourt.org/documents/grand_jury/2011/police_dispatch_centers.pdf