County considers merging dispatch centers

SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 in favor of exploring a merger of all five district 911 dispatch call centers.

County and city of San Diego officials have long considered merging the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, North County Dispatch, Heartland Communications, Escondido and CAL FIRE/County Fire dispatch centers. North County Dispatch and Heartland, in particular, are both "bursting at the seams and actively planning for replacement facilities," according to a county report.

The board will decide Tuesday whether to direct the county chief administrative officer to begin planning for a consolidated center comprised of the five dispatch groups. A merger may "bring cost savings and operational efficiencies" while offering "more robust" services, according to the county.

City officials decided in March to explore merging fire and medical dispatch centers based on the recommendation of an independent study presented to the City Council's Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee.

The study cited space inadequacies at the city's 11,563-square-foot Kearny Mesa center. The study also said the city will need to find or build a new dispatch center by 2020, even if it doesn't merge operations.

City officials are expected to release a formal proposal by the end of the year.