Three public-safety answering points (PSAPs) in San Bernadino County, Calif., have realized considerable operational and financial benefits by linking their call centers via a single phone system and leveraging the interoperable capabilities of the latest VESTA/Sentinel 4 system from Cassidian Communications, according to officials from the three PSAPs.

All three PSAPs—Valley Control Center (VCC), Desert Control Center (DCC) and the consolidated fire dispatch center (CONFIRE)—used a VESTA/Sentinel system previously, so they jumped at the opportunity to test the most recent release of the system while seeking to enhance their interoperability, according to VCC communications manager Cyndee Freeman.

“The system had everything we wanted out of it,” Freeman said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We wanted the interoperability. We wanted our dispatchers at either of the sheriff sites to be able to log on and take calls, because we have a lot of overtime at both centers. So, if we had an issue where I was down a couple of positions and Desert had a couple of extra, they could log on as my dispatchers, and vice versa. So, it was cost saver in that way.

“Before, when there was overtime, our dispatchers would have to drive up there.”

This capability is especially helpful in San Bernadino County, which covers 23,000 square miles and geographically is the largest county in the continental U.S., said Ron Dunn, DCC communications manager.

“Our centers are separated by approximately 40 miles each, so it is nice that—if I have some overtime up in the Desert—one of [Freeman’s] dispatchers at her center, 40 miles away, can sign in under one of my Desert control logons and still answer my telephone calls,” Dunn said. “The good thing about that is that my center still gets the stats for those calls.”

This location flexibility is also helpful to the county’s fire dispatch operations, which was able to add a backup center to its operations because of the capabilities included in the new system, according to Brian Acosta, CONFIRE communications manager and the county 911 coordinator.

“My operators can go to my backup facility, which may be much closer to where they live, in an emergent need,” Acosta said. “And they can log in and start taking calls, versus having to drive that extra 40 minutes to get down to my center to actually log in from the Valley. That’s a huge plus for me, because I can have operators up and running in a manner of minutes from their home, because they live closer to my backup center.”