With the state focusing on regionalization for many services, the Southwestern Regional Communications Center (SWRCC) is now poised to answer the call for help for even more area communities.
SWRCC’s recent move from the dark, tight quarters at the old Bridgeport Hospital to 100 Beard Sawmill Road in Shelton has not only provided the organization with upgraded technological capabilities and space but also the amenities necessary to create an improved working environment for the employees whose jobs can be quite stressful.
“With the move and the new site, the culture of the employees has improved and changed,” said Vaughan Dumas, who was hired to head SWRCC last May with an eye toward expanding and rebranding the operation.
“This is not a run-down, worn-out site … it is brand new, with improved technology and a great atmo”sphere for the employees,” added Dumas. “It is motivating for the employees. The change in morale has been incredible.”
SWRCC, founded in 1983, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides telecommunication services to municipal fire, police and EMS services as well as hospitals in southwestern Connecticut. Right now, SWRCC provides the service to 16 communities, including the city of Shelton, and six hospitals.
In 2018, SWRCC, which receives the majority of its funding from its municipal clients, but also receives substantial funding from the state of Connecticut as well as individual, foundation and corporate charitable donors, dispatched approximately 105,000 combined service calls. So far this year, SWRCC dispatchers have handled more than 26,000 calls.
“Being here has definitely boosted morale,” said dispatcher Chris Jensen, a Derby resident who also appreciates having a much easier commute to work. “In this space, we can definitely communicate better with each other, which makes our jobs easier.”
Dispatcher Louis Uvino, an Ansonia resident, said the new site is a superior working environment.
“It is easier to regional dispatch here,” said Uvino.
“Everything is upgraded,” said dispatcher Kristen Ostrowski, a Shelton resident. “It is just a better environment overall. We are better able to do our jobs and communicate with each other here. And the place is beautiful. We have had many people come to see how we operate. We are proud of this place.”
The organization had been renting space in the old Bridgeport Hospital for some 25 years, but Dumas noted that the location was tight — less than 1,000 square feet — with antiquated copper line technology and no place for employees, who can take emotionally trying calls at times, to decompress, since the site had no break room, cafeteria or even windows.
“There was no room to expand the business there,” said Dumas, “and, secondly, the environment for the staff was not positive … it was dark and run-down.”
That is when Dumas began searching for a new location — finally coming across more than 2,900 square feet of space that was originally outfitted technologically for HealthNet, at 100 Beard Sawmill Road — one of the local properties owned by Rob Scinto.
“The technology here was already in place, which is one of the main selling features in why we chose this site,” said Dumas, adding that there is a 24-hour emergency generator system for the entire building as well as redundant fiber-optic lines and redundant phone lines that come into the building.
“We need all those things for our operation to function the way it should,” added Dumas. “If there are failures, we’ll already have redundancies in the building.”
Along with the technology at this site, the amenities for the staff include a gym to promote healthy living; a cafeteria; a child care site in the building; and the location, right off Route 8, provides close proximity for many of the employees.
“The location itself proved positive for technology and our employees,” said Dumas.
Dumas said working in the center can be stressful at times, and this building allows for various locations — from walking trails to the cafeteria, the gym to the break room — for employees to “get away from the console.
“If they are fatigued and stressed, or when they take a bad call, there is now a place to go and decompress,” added Dumas.
SWRCC presently has 16 full-time employees and 10 part-time employees, and with the new, larger location, the operation, which could have four consoles in the old site, can now have six, meaning hiring more employees is possible. And the lease allows for expansion if necessary.
“We are focusing on controlled growth,” said Dumas. “We currently have two positions vacant and available, and we plan to talk to other municipalities to join the organization. The state is promoting regionalization and, us having the space now and improved capabilities, we can help more communities in the area and the region.”
Dumas said that SWRCC could add three new municipalities right now, depending on the services they require.
“We are currently negotiating with a municipalities to cover law enforcement,” said Dumas, who has a law enforcement background, spending 29 years with the Milford Police Department, as well as time as being a volunteer fire chief and an EMT. “I have familiarity in all three aspects of emergency services, and I have four staff members who come from law enforcement dispatch backgrounds. We have the capability to expand to law enforcement fields as well.”
The new technology — which focuses on fiber-optic lines, with a copper line backup — also allows Dumas to improve quality control, as staff can monitor calls in real time, or see recordings later, to give employees feedback on performance.
“We need to receive and dispatch in 90 seconds,” said Dumas. “We monitor for that, and the new system is a self-development tool. This holds us accountable to the municipalities we serve. Our service is easy to track, and they can see the call process.”
Some of the services that SWRCC provides its clients include:
“A direct “in the field” communication link between first responders in the field and hospital emergency departments for medical control/direction. This includes activation of specialized hospital surgical and medical teams (trauma and burn units).
“Maintaining recordings of all radio and telephone transmissions pertinent to emergency medical care documentation and support of EMS providers.
“Coordinating EMS responses for hospital diversions, including making alert notifications, updates and tracking.
“Coordinating mutual aid provision throughout the region.
“Maintaining single-source communication infrastructure for interoperability of regional and state EMS and fire assets.
“Providing communications coordination for mass causality incidents and other major incidents.
“Maintaining backup radio frequencies in the event of radio system failures.
“Coordinating, tracking and maintaining independent records for every medical call response (required for state EMS reporting and municipal audits).
“Coordinating the forward movement of patients in the event of a major incident or hospital evacuation.
“Notifying and coordinating with hazmat teams and regional fire task forces.
“Determining jurisdiction of accidents on I-95, Rt. 25, Rt. 8 and Rt. 15 for the Connecticut State Police.
“Providing cross patching for EMS, fire and police services to all regional hospitals.
Currently, SWRCC provides services to Bridgeport, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Milford, Monroe, New Canaan, Norwalk, Shelton, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport and Wilton. In addition, SWRCC provides communications to Greenwich, Stamford, Norwalk, Bridgeport, St. Vincent’s and Milford hospitals.
“We are better served now with this concept of regionalization being promoted,” said Dumas. “If a municipality comes to our regional center, it is more economically feasible for a community than trying to manage it on their own. If came to me at old center, we could not help. Now we can take on more. But the biggest thing is the employee satisfaction and morale.”