Trouble brewing for CMED.

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N1SQB

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Here is an article from the New Haven Register. Seems some of Southcentral CMED's biggest clients are pulling out. This is going to get very interesting to say the least.

"NEW HAVEN >> The future of the South Central Connecticut Regional Emergency Communications System -- CMED South Central -- is up in the air following decisions by two of its biggest members and contributors, New Haven and West Haven, to pull out.

The West Haven City Council followed New Haven's lead late Tuesday night and voted unanimously to withdraw from CMED, which serves as an electronic connection between emergency responders and area hospitals. The withdrawal, like New Haven's, is effective June 30.

Hamden is said to be close behind and is likely to go in with New Haven and West Haven in a new emergency medical dispatching venture, although the matter has yet to go before Hamden's Legislative Council, officials from all three municipalities said.

The three communities are among the largest served by CMED South Central, which provides emergency medical dispatching for an 18-town area stretching from Milford in the west to Madison in the east and Meriden in the north.


"Our concern is that we're being overcharged, and that nobody listens," said New Haven Mayor Toni Harp, whose city would have faced a 9.5 percent increase in CMED costs had it continued to participate into the next fiscal year.

New Haven Wednesday closed a request for proposals from companies seeking to provide emergency dispatching communications after June 30.

There were two bidders: CMED and AMR, or American Medical Response, the ambulance company that is the primary responder to medical emergencies in New Haven. Details on each organization's proposal were not immediately available.

West Haven is expected to seek similar proposals soon and Hamden will follow suit if its council also votes to leave CMED.

"Basically, what's happened is, they've practically priced themselves out of the market," said Abe Colon, West Haven's 911 emergency reporting system director, speaking to the City Council before the vote.

Other West Haven officials, including Allingtown Fire Chief Peter Massaro and West Haven Fire Department Deputy Chief Scott Schwartz, said it's also about quality and speed.

"CMED is getting antiquated," and these days, "there's really no need for them," said Massaro." With our own CAD (computer-aided dispatch) system, we'll be able to do what they do, automatically."

Colon said that without New Haven, any costs "would be divided among the remaining towns." He estimated that withdrawing from CMED is likely to cut West Haven's cost for emergency medical dispatching -- currently $109,000 -- in half.

New Haven currently pays $352,000 of CMED's $1.67 million annual budget, plus a $39,222 state subsidy that the state pays directly to CMED, said Fontana.

That compares to $120,559 that Hartford pays to CMED North Central, plus a $37,000 state subsidy, and $131,385 that Bridgeport pays to the Southwestern Regional Communications Center, plus a $43,691 state subsidy, Fontana said.

Harp said CMED long has depended on New Haven and the other larger communities for what she believes is an unfair percentage of its revenue.

CMED "provides more extensive services for some of the smaller communities, and New Haven subsidizes those services ... and we can't afford to carry them anymore," Harp said. "So what we're saying is, they can bid on it and if the price is reasonable, we'll go with them.

"That's it," she said. "They've got to reduce the price or we've got to go somewhere where we can get a better price."

According to Fontana, Bethany pays $1,539 annually for CMED to serve as its 911 dispatching center.

Fontana said a debate has been going on behind the scenes since 2008, when then-New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. sent a letter warning CMED that the city could pull out.

"We talked until we were blue in the face to try to get CMED to understand," but it only lowered its price by a little, said Fontana, a former West Haven firefighter.

He said New Haven and its neighbors can do better.

"In the past year, we have kind of stopped all communications with CMED ... We don't do anything with CMED anymore. The calls come in and go straight" to the ambulance company.

"We bypass the middleman," Fontana said. "The middleman costs us money and ... more importantly, the middleman costs us time.

"In the past two years, we have gone directly to AMR," he said. The same is true of West Haven, Hamden and Milford, Fontana said.

The South Central Regional Council of Governments was to have discussed the issue at its regular monthly meeting Wednesday morning, but cancelled the CMED discussion because CMED officials were out of town at an emergency management conference.

CMED South Central Executive Director Gary Stango did not return a message seeking comment left on his voicemail or a message that a CMED staffer said he would relay to Stango.

West Haven's move follows closely behind a similar unanimous decision earlier this month by the New Haven Board of Alders.

Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson said Wednesday that if New Haven and West Haven pull out, Hamden is not in a position to pay more to take up the slack.

"We are going to be following the route that New Haven and West Haven took," said Hamden Fire Chief David Berardesca, although he emphasized that "it will have to go through the regular route" through the Legislative Council.

"I have nothing against CMED. It's a great service," Berardesca said. But "we want to get the best value that we can for our community, without jeopardizing safety."

Currently, "basically, the bigger towns are paying the freight," he said.

But "it's not all monetary," Berardesca said. "Really, the bottom line, it's about public safety and efficiency of the system and cost would probably be the last part of it.

"I believe we can get a value from a system at less cost than we're paying now. But also with that, I believe we can get a better system," he said.

Besides New Haven, West Haven and Hamden, CMED's members are Ansonia, Bethany, Branford, Derby, East Haven, Guilford, Madison, Meriden, Milford, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, Shelton, Wallingford, and Woodbridge"


Interesting to say the least. Definitely something to watch.
 
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N1SQB

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More info

This is posted on the New Haven Independent website:

"7:30 p.m.Among the votes that alders take Monday night, they decide unanimously to terminate New Haven’s membership in the South Central Connecticut Regional Emergency Medical Communications System. CMED, as it’s called, is a system New Haven helped create in the 1970s to enable communication between ambulances and hospitals. Each year, CMED sends a bill to each of 17 participating towns. New Haven has long argued that it is paying disproportionately more than other cities. In the current fiscal year, for instance, New Haven pays $342,637.06 while Bridgeport pays $90,000 and Hartford pays $117,000. The goal of leaving CMED is to find a more cost-effective way for the city to provide communications between ambulances and hospitals."

Once the dust settles, it will be very interesting to see how this will affect the way we monitor the activity in these towns.
 
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wa2chj

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I have to agree with the towns. CMED has way too much power and is involved in way more than what CMED in most other states does. That means they are way more expensive than they should be.
Regional (at least county-wide) dispatch leads to much better situational awareness, especially for the first responders and supervisors/command staff. I would even argue for a much larger area where there were at most four regional dispatch jurisdictions, and I'd actually prefer two areas in CT. That would spread the costs over many more towns and at least several large cities in each area.
Yes, I know the usual arguement..."but a dipatcher 50 miles away doesn't know the intricacies of the area they are dispatching in". That maybe true initially, but would soon correct itself. It's no different than having a brand new dispatcher starting the job. Most dispatchers are very good at their jobs and get better over time. I'd much rather have a dispatcher that doesn't know everything about the area they are dispatching in than have the system we have now where I don't know anything about what the town next to me is doing.
Where I grew up in EMS, we had county wide dispatch (and the county was about half the size of the state of CT, and just as metropolitan and populated as Hartford County). The dispatch agency for fire and EMS was the County Fire Control Agency. The only thing CMED did was get initial med patch call in and assign the ambulance to a med channel for whatever hospital they were headed to. CMED didn't dispatch,
or do any of the other functions CMED does here. They were merely support for EMS communications. That eliminated the duplicity of being dispatched by a town agency, having to call out to them, then having to do exactly the same thing with CMED. Our CMED didn't know, or care, where we were going on a call. All they tracked was hospital communications, which really should be CMED's only role.
So, good for the towns, if they can find another agency that can do the job for less money, or start their own agency that could be region-wide and give the first responders a wider view of what is happening when it's likely to spill over into their area.
I just left CT after 14 years in that system as both a professional and a volly, and moved back to NC (not where I grew up in EMS), and in south central NC, EVERY county does county-wide dispatching, and every agency can hear every other agency, no matter if it's the City of Charlotte, or a very small VFD in a rural county. They all are able to hear what is going on.
 

N1SQB

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I have to agree with the towns. CMED has way too much power and is involved in way more than what CMED in most other states does. That means they are way more expensive than they should be.
Regional (at least county-wide) dispatch leads to much better situational awareness, especially for the first responders and supervisors/command staff. I would even argue for a much larger area where there were at most four regional dispatch jurisdictions, and I'd actually prefer two areas in CT. That would spread the costs over many more towns and at least several large cities in each area.
Yes, I know the usual arguement..."but a dipatcher 50 miles away doesn't know the intricacies of the area they are dispatching in". That maybe true initially, but would soon correct itself. It's no different than having a brand new dispatcher starting the job. Most dispatchers are very good at their jobs and get better over time. I'd much rather have a dispatcher that doesn't know everything about the area they are dispatching in than have the system we have now where I don't know anything about what the town next to me is doing.
Where I grew up in EMS, we had county wide dispatch (and the county was about half the size of the state of CT, and just as metropolitan and populated as Hartford County). The dispatch agency for fire and EMS was the County Fire Control Agency. The only thing CMED did was get initial med patch call in and assign the ambulance to a med channel for whatever hospital they were headed to. CMED didn't dispatch,
or do any of the other functions CMED does here. They were merely support for EMS communications. That eliminated the duplicity of being dispatched by a town agency, having to call out to them, then having to do exactly the same thing with CMED. Our CMED didn't know, or care, where we were going on a call. All they tracked was hospital communications, which really should be CMED's only role.
So, good for the towns, if they can find another agency that can do the job for less money, or start their own agency that could be region-wide and give the first responders a wider view of what is happening when it's likely to spill over into their area.
I just left CT after 14 years in that system as both a professional and a volly, and moved back to NC (not where I grew up in EMS), and in south central NC, EVERY county does county-wide dispatching, and every agency can hear every other agency, no matter if it's the City of Charlotte, or a very small VFD in a rural county. They all are able to hear what is going on.
The problem has always been here in CT. that we are NOT a county government state. In the southern states, that works. Here, it does not. Too many people in positions of authority want to do things their own way. Now, with issues like this one, towns are being forced to come up with a way to work together.

Manny
 

wa2chj

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Manny,

You are, unforunately, 100% correct, but it's not just the southern states. The area I grew up in was Central Upstate NY, and county wide dispatch is alive and well in Onondaga County/Syracuse, NY as well. In fact, of all the systems I've worked in, that one worked the best. When I was there (Prior to 1995), they only had TWO low band dispatch channels, one for EMS and one for fire, but the system worked very well. They have changed frequencies to UHF and simulcast onto a TRS, but because there are no trunking pagers continue on the UHF dispatch frequencies where every agency can hear everyone else's calls and know what's likely to affect them.
Yes, fifedoms exist in CT, and probably always will until and unless something happens to force a change in that. Maybe this will be the chink in the armor that starts that change. I hope so for the people who depend on emergency services in thier time of need. In other words...the citizens of CT...and they deserve better whether they know it or not.
 

firerick100

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Manny and WA2CHJ. Awesome post by you both. Manny,correct me if I'm wrong but what these area need to do is have a system like LCD (Litchfield county dispatch),it seems like it works great for them they have a main dispatch channel and a bunch of scene channels for on scene ops,and do not have anything to do with ambulance to hospital communications.
 

APX7500X2

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This is Great news!! The towns that have had to suffer with horrible dispatching over the years might get a chance to fix things and get quality dispatching again.
AMR is no where near the correct fix, but 1 thing at a time.

I feel sorry for the Dispatchers that work there, They have been handcuffed with bad procedures, training, management and direction for decades

You can take a look at other CMEDs like North West, LCD, Valley Shore, KX who have better procedures, training, management and direction and are doing much better.
 

wa2chj

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And how about some state-wide coordination? Like something as simple as ambulance call signs. Talk to South Central and your call sign is 5P29. Transporting to North Central? Change your call sign to 300A29 as soon as you cross the line into Hartford County. If you're working a code or serious call and use the wrong call sign because you were too busy to notice you crossed the county line and your partner already switched MED channels, they will ignore or correct you...which you really don't need in that situation. As APX7500X2 said, better training, SOPs, and management is needed to eliminate that kind of problem. And I agree, AMR probably isn't the best choice for a dispatch agency simply because they have a vested interest and financial incentive other than providing the service.
 

N1SQB

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And how about some state-wide coordination? Like something as simple as ambulance call signs. Talk to South Central and your call sign is 5P29. Transporting to North Central? Change your call sign to 300A29 as soon as you cross the line into Hartford County. If you're working a code or serious call and use the wrong call sign because you were too busy to notice you crossed the county line and your partner already switched MED channels, they will ignore or correct you...which you really don't need in that situation. As APX7500X2 said, better training, SOPs, and management is needed to eliminate that kind of problem. And I agree, AMR probably isn't the best choice for a dispatch agency simply because they have a vested interest and financial incentive other than providing the service.
I couldn't agree with you more! This once again brings me to the point I made earlier, everyone wants to be out for themselves, on their own, run things their own way, regardless of how it may affect someone else. That's crazy that it's set up this way, especially for those who work CMED boundary lines lines on a regular basis. But, like everything else, until someone gets hurt or even killed, THEN the powers that be, will take this seriously!

Manny
 

rjk_165

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Very interesting. With the majority of NH's EMS work being done by AMR, wouldn't be surprised if they took the contract. Wonder how NHFD's two EMS rigs will go about this?
 

KB1JHU

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The entire State is messed up when it comes to communications. Everyone wants to play in their own sandbox, especially in lower Fairfield & New Haven Counties. I guess Hartford County too, but I'm most familiar with southwestern CT. I have heard over and over from a lot of people that the CMED centers "do too much" or "are too involved" when compared to other places. Other places have fully integrated regional or countywide dispatch centers that in most cases include fire, EMS & law enforcement. I doubt that will EVER happen in lower Fairfield or New Haven County. This leaves, in those 2 counties, Southwest CMED & South Central CMED as the only centers that provide any sort of coverage over the entirety of the region they serve. That has meant that, in addition to hospital patches, CMED coordinates mutual aid and mass casualty incidents because they have the ability to talk to all the ambulances that are responding and all the hospitals in their region. In places where you have true regional/countywide dispatch centers, that additional agency isn't needed because everyone works through that regional center, which as I said, will likely never happen.

As for these CMED centers doing primary dispatch for some fire & EMS services, every town or agency had their reason. The PD dispatch that was doing it was bad at it or didn't care to do it any more, they couldn't afford the additional staff to handle increasing call volume or to have at least 2 dispatchers 24/7 to be able to properly EMD medical calls and be able to take another incoming call. What people forget is that these CMED centers haven't done just the CMED function for a VERY long time. They ARE regional dispatch centers, just not to the same extent as elsewhere because the municipalities don't want to play well together.
 

jdanon

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I think issues like this are overblown. The CMED part I can understand, but the rest of this discussion is one that comes along every now and again. Every town has its own budget, its own police/fire/EMS services, and may have its own dispatch center or use a regional one if they're a small enough town. If Greenwich (where I am now) wants to spend a million dollars per year paying for a dozen dispatchers in their own center to dispatch its own fire, police, and ambulances, so what? What's the big deal? It's their tax money and they should spend it as they see fit. Why does every town need to be on the same frequency and plugged in to what's happening in every other town? The short answer is, they don't, for the same reason towns generally don't share water, sewage, or garbage collection services. What exactly are the communications deficiencies (beyond the usual coverage issues inherent in radio communications) that some of you that work in public safety see? I never have never had any problems working in Connecticut, and for decades worked in fire and EMS dealing with both regional centers and towns that had their own systems, and never thought to myself "if only I could hear what's happening in the next town!"
 

KB1JHU

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It's not necessarily about always hearing what's happening in the surrounding towns. It's about being able to communicate with each other when you need to. In some areas, neighboring jurisdictions do this well. In this particular case with the CMED system, you have various EMS agencies between fire-based EMS, commercial services, municipal EMS (non-FD) and non-profit EMS, that are all on their own radio systems on various bands. CMED is the one common link that allows them to talk to each other, and not just for major incidents. Regularly you have FD first responders that may want to give their transport ambulance from a commercial service what is happening with the patient. This state is a hodge-podge cluster of radio systems, particularly along the western I-95 & I-84 and I-91 corridors which has led to a hodge-podge cluster of attempted interoperability systems which kind of defeats the purpose. Originally, there were the PD hotlines, the VHF regional fire channels, VHF regional OEM channels, and CMED. Then you start to add the smaller regional things like SCAN, FAPERN, RAFS, Intercity, etc. Then there's CSPERN, the newer UASI systems like the tri-band linked repeaters in the New Haven area or the 700 system in Fairfield County, 8-Call/Tac (I-Call/I-tac), STOCS. I'm sure there's some I missed. Does the CMED system have it's faults? Yeah, there's 13 CMED centers covering 5 EMS regions. Some of these centers have to not only share the CMED frequencies, but they have the same PL tone to work with. However, I can take an ambulance from Stratford to Norwich and still be able to talk to whatever CMED center covers there if I had to. You couldn't take a fire truck or police car from Stratford and be able to talk to the fire or police dispatch center over there.
 

N1SQB

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I have noticed very obvious reduction in radio traffic on South Central CMED. Obviously with all the layoffs and everything else going on, things are changing daily. My question is, how are towns, that have FD responding to medical calls and that are not going through CMED communicating with AMR when they need an ambulance? Is it a matter of calling dispatch and THEY call AMR? I mean if New Haven FD is on scene and has an ALS call, how do they communicate or update an incoming ambulance crew? I'm just trying to understand where has all the traffic no longer going through CMED, moved to!


Manny
 

APX7500X2

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I have noticed very obvious reduction in radio traffic on South Central CMED. Obviously with all the layoffs and everything else going on, things are changing daily. My question is, how are towns, that have FD responding to medical calls and that are not going through CMED communicating with AMR when they need an ambulance? Is it a matter of calling dispatch and THEY call AMR? I mean if New Haven FD is on scene and has an ALS call, how do they communicate or update an incoming ambulance crew? I'm just trying to understand where has all the traffic no longer going through CMED, moved to!


Manny
Many of the town stopped calling C-med for ambulances years ago. They all just call AMR directly and do updates the same way. You might start to see it the Fairfield way, the ambulance signs on with Fairfield FD on their frequency when going to a call..... I could never Understand why VEMS in the valley never did that, but in the valley if it makes sense don't do it.
 

KB1JHU

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There's less traffic on SC Med 10 because AMR sent an email to the New Haven division employees to not sign on with CMED any more except under certain circumstances and just get a patch when needed. This is simply AMR playing games. They have supposedly been suspending employees for signing on with SC CMED.
 

N1SQB

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There's less traffic on SC Med 10 because AMR sent an email to the New Haven division employees to not sign on with CMED any more except under certain circumstances and just get a patch when needed. This is simply AMR playing games. They have supposedly been suspending employees for signing on with SC CMED.
Wow! That is absolutely ridiculous and shameful on their part. But then again, we are talking about AMR aren't we! It's gonna be very interesting to say the least, to see who ends up doing what with whom when all the proverbial dust settles!

Manny
 

Kitn1mcc

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i heard on there the other day one of the East Haven Chiefs was upset seeing how he did not know were his AMR car was. He was ready to go mutual aid
 

APX7500X2

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There's less traffic on SC Med 10 because AMR sent an email to the New Haven division employees to not sign on with CMED any more except under certain circumstances and just get a patch when needed. This is simply AMR playing games. They have supposedly been suspending employees for signing on with SC CMED.
Close.

The C-med Transition team sent out that memo but it was blocked by others. AMR just put out what is the right way.
For South Central you only call on med 10 when you need a patch, Don't sign on anymore going to or getting to calls
 
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