A new structure for handling 911 calls in parts of the Upstate went into effect July 26.
The Boiling Springs and Taylors Fire Departments are teaming up with the City of Greer Police Department and Fire Department to consolidate their dispatch operations.
Dispatchers are the first step in getting people help during emergencies. They take 911 calls and send crews to fires and crime scenes.
Until a few weeks ago, Chris Krajenka was the only dispatcher answering phones in Greer during his shift.
“Say a severe storm comes in…we take a large amount of calls during that period, from accidents, lightening strikes, alarm calls, things of that nature…so we can be non-stop in here,” Krajenka said.
Now he’s part of a larger team after the fire departments of Taylors and Boiling Springs joined up with Greer to put all of their dispatchers at the Greer call center at their police department.
Whereas there used to be one dispatcher here answering phones, now there are three, answering phones 24 hours a day everyday. However, the call volume has also increased.
“Since we’ve consolidated with those fire departments, our call volume has increased substantially,” Krajenka said. “Where we would put out maybe five, six calls in a ten hour period…we’ve probably tripled that or more.”
The communities teamed up to hire four more dispatchers, who serve all three fire departments’ areas now. The dispatchers send the closest crew. It’s called “automatic aid.”
“In the past, if a fire came in in Taylors and, let’s just say in a bordering areas, and they needed our help, they would call on a phone and ask our dispatch to send us. Now that delay is gone,” said Deputy Fire Chief Josh Holzheimer, who is with the City of Greer.
According to officials, the new system does not just send emergency responders faster, it also sends bigger crews.
“For the people we serve, it allows us to provide more resources on scene because it takes firefighters that are normally sitting behind a radio and puts them back in the field,” said Boiling Springs Fire Chief Steve Graham.
Chief Graham said the move is saving taxpayers $80,000 a year in personnel costs.
The plan has been in the works since 2016 when fire officials presented the idea to their council. However, it’s taken several years to hire dispatchers because it’s been difficult to hire in that field recently, according to officials.