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Westport and Fairfield police departments open a joint dispatch center at Sacred Heart University

The Fairfield County Regional Dispatch center at Sacred Heart University.
Tracy Deer-Mirek
Sacred Heart University
The Fairfield County Regional Dispatch center at Sacred Heart University.

The towns of Fairfield and Westport have combined their 911 call centers at a new emergency dispatch center at Sacred Heart University.

The two towns started talking about combining their 911 call centers five years ago in order to reduce duplication of resources and speed up response time. The new dispatch center opened in March.

Gary MacNamara, Sacred Heart’s executive director of public safety and government affairs, said that the center has many benefits.

“Combining the resources, number one, saves money but it also helps coordinate a response better,” MacNamara said. “Oftentimes, we think of jurisdictions meaning Fairfield and Westport as being separate from each other and they are, but really what it comes down to are just lines on a map. If we can get resources, be it ambulance, fire or police to a location in either town, no matter what the badge or the patches on the side of the uniform, that really makes a difference. I don't think anybody necessarily cares who comes to their aid, whether it be Westport or Fairfield, just that they get there quickly.”

MacNamara said that the university has played a huge role in the success of the new dispatch center.

“I don't think that this would have happened, if it were not for Sacred Heart University,” MacNamara said. “They, in essence, provided the location, and were really cooperative in getting the location, opening it up for the municipalities to come in, make the changes that they needed to make. Given the other locations that we looked at, I don't think this would have happened if it was not for the university stepping up and supporting the initiative.”

Along with increasing response times, the center also provides another level of safety on campus since the towns leased the first floor of Sacred Heart’s library. It will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“This seemed to be an appropriate location,” MacNamara said. “It was close to the main roads, which allows for wiring and everything to be brought in for the center. It just seemed like a pretty central location that was easy to be modified to the needs of the university.”

The two towns signed a 25 year lease with Sacred Heart for $1 a year and have invested $3.7 million to remodel the center.

Sacred Heart University is the licensee of WSHU Public Radio.

Natalie is a former news fellow with WSHU Public Radio.