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News / Clark County News

Vancouver eyes changes to emergency services; it studies if it should opt out of CRESA

Dispatch center director says it's working to keep up with growth

By Becca Robbins, Columbian staff reporter
Published: February 28, 2024, 5:59pm

Vancouver officials said they’re probing whether to continue using the countywide 911 dispatch center following an assessment of the city’s emergency management program.

Emergency management consulting firm Tamarack MGMT completed the assessment, which was presented during a city council workshop Monday. The report found gaps in the city’s program and made recommendations for how to address them.

One such recommendation is to analyze the costs and benefits of the emergency management services Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency provides to the city.

Deputy City Manager Lisa Brandl said during the meeting her office will examine how expanding the city’s emergency management program would impact CRESA’s services. She also said her office will seek proposals to evaluate what it would take for the city to create its own dispatch services.

In addition to reviewing dispatch services, the assessment also recommended the city expand training for employees and community members. General Services Director Geraldene Moyle said the city would continue to use CRESA for that training in the short term. It also recommended the city create a strategic plan and build community confidence in the program.

Moyle said the review of dispatch services could go one of three ways: reduce CRESA’s role in city services, expand CRESA’s services or keep the relationship the same.

In 2024, the city budgeted $234,536 for emergency management services from CRESA.

CRESA Director Dave Fuller said in an email Tuesday the agency understands the city’s desire to explore its options. The dispatch center is working to keep up with growth — both in the city and the rest of the county.

This year, CRESA increased its budgeted 911 call takers from 64 to 73. Fuller said the agency knows it will need to increase that by another 25 percent in the next few years. In addition to bolstering staff, the agency will also need to expand its infrastructure, including its radio, phone and computer systems.

“I and many others believe that 911 call taking and dispatching are services that are best performed at a regional level and in a combined setting,” he said in the email. “Multiple times a day, dispatchers share critical information between responders from different agencies. Having those dispatchers in one location helps the flow of information and coordination of resources from the different agencies.

“In addition, there are efficiencies to be gained through the use of shared infrastructure and communication systems, so as a community we are not investing in duplicate or disparate systems.”

Fuller said the dispatch agency will continue to support the city, which is a large payer of its emergency services. He also hopes CRESA can continue to be involved in the city’s reviews going forward.