KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A 30-year effort to centralize public safety dispatch activities across Kalamazoo County will finally be implemented before the end of this year, and Western Michigan University officials are busy preparing for a smooth transition.
In fact, WMU Department of Public Safety and Facilities Management officials say, the transition will be so smooth, most people in the WMU community will never even notice it.
"This is consolidated dispatch, not a consolidated police force," notes WMU Public Safety Chief Scott Merlo. "It means 911 calls from around the county will be answered in one central location and it will improve response time and prevent emergency calls or texts made on cellphones from being forwarded from one department to another."
But campus calls for assistance will still lead to responses by WMU's public safety officers, Merlo says. And nonemergency calls for an officer or other assistance will still see the same level of service campus community members have come to expect.
The consolidated dispatch effort will bring all five county police departments' dispatch operations together in one center to ensure efficiency, quick response times, and a high level of cooperation among the county's police departments during emergency situations. Late fall is the anticipated activation date. WMU has a self-imposed summer deadline to have all infrastructure changes ready for the fall transition.
Once implemented, consolidated dispatch means that:
- All campus 911 calls will go to Kalamazoo County Central Dispatch.
- Campus calls for police assistance will continue to result in the dispatch of WMU public safety officers to respond to campus incidents and reports.
- Calls from the 118 campus "blue light" emergency call boxes will go directly to the dispatch center and be conveyed to WMU public safety officers.
- Calls to (269) 387-5555, the campus' traditional public safety contact number, will result in an automated answer that asks callers to:
- Press 1 if the call is an emergency. All emergency calls will be routed to consolidated dispatch.
- Press 2 to speak with WMU public safety administration during business hours.
- Press 3 if the call is a facilities-related request.
- Elevator emergency button messages, AED alarms and panic buttons will continue to be monitored 24/7 and receive response from WMU public safety officers and the appropriate service organizations.
The transfer of dispatch activities to the new central location will mean that the lobby of the WMU Department of Public Safety at 511 Monroe St. will be open only during normal business hours. Requests for attention to facilities needs and nonpolice matters can also be made to a 24-hour automated phone line, (269) 387-8514.
"People on campus just need to know three numbers—911, 7-5555 and 7-8514—to have all of their safety and facilities needs met," says Merlo.
In addition to the WMU Department of Public Safety, the cooperating police departments using the new center are Kalamazoo Public Safety, Kalamazoo Township Police Department, the Kalamazoo County Sherriff Office and the Portage Department of Public Safety. The initiative is governed by the Kalamazoo County Consolidated Dispatch Authority, a panel of officials from all five communities involved. WMU Vice President for Business and Finance Jan Van Der Kley is the current chairperson of that authority.
For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.