San Diego Fire-Rescue
Photo by Alexander Nguyen

Fire officials are exploring bringing city, state, county and federal emergency dispatch centers under one roof, based on the recommendations of a study presented Wednesday at a San Diego City Council committee meeting.

The study by Citygate Associates looked at the needs of the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department’s emergency communications center and found the 26-year- old command hub has far exceeded its intended capacity and is not sufficiently secure. Its footprint cannot be expanded due to the size of the lot.

The center handles about 200,000 calls per year.

“I can say without a doubt you are bursting at the seams at that facility,” Councilman Chris Cate said at the Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee meeting.

As a remedy, the firm recommended the city explore building a consolidated dispatch center that would be used by the region’s other large fire services: the San Diego County Fire Authority, Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service.

The city operates two dispatch centers, which also serve five smaller cities, while the county, state and Forest Service each operate their own centers. Los Angeles County, which has a population over three times that of San Diego County, has two main fire dispatch centers by comparison, according to Citygate.

The best option would likely be co-location rather than unification. That means that dispatchers from the city, county and Forest Service would work alongside one another rather than together because unifying staffing practices and procedures could be prohibitively complex, according to the report.

City and county leaders have already signaled their interest in exploring a co-located dispatch center that would serve the region for at least five decades.

Fire officials hope to firm up their plans for the dispatch center, identify a site and craft a funding proposal by the end of the year.

If the co-location plan falls through, Citygate recommended that the city move forward with building a new dispatch center that would open by 2020.

—City News Service