In the coming weeks, anyone putting a call in to the Londonderry Fire Department’s non-emergency number will find that the person usually on the other end of the line is replaced with an automated phone system.
Speaking at the Town Council Meeting this past Monday, Londonderry fire Chief Darren O’Brien detailed the plan to adopt an automated communications system to streamline the way his department works through inbound phone calls. Citing the department’s current workload, Chief O’Brien expressed his belief that the change was sorely needed.
“We’ve gotten to a point where the call volume needs to be taken down,” remarked O’Brien. “I think it’s time to make that transition.”
Under the new system, those calling in to the department’s non-emergency line will immediately be greeted with an automated prompt that tells the caller to hang up and dial 911 if there is an emergency. After this, the caller will be presented with options that will allow them to connect directly to the division or individual that they need to speak to.
While O’Brien noted that he had some reservations about the automated system taking away from the personal touch of a human voice, he made a point to mention that every caller will have the ability to request to speak to a dispatcher at any time after the immediate greeting.
Speaking on the flaws of the current system, O’Brien stressed that Londonderry dispatchers on the non-emergency line were being “inundated with calls throughout the day” with residents calling about everything from burn permits to specific questions for his office. Under the automated system, O’Brien made clear that each individual division within the fire department will be responsible for working through their own phone calls.
Wondering how the automated system might impact someone in an emergency who mistakenly calls the non-emergency number, Councilman Jim Butler asked Chief O’Brien whether delays would exist between the opening prompt and the ability to connect to a human dispatcher. In response, O’Brien noted that any delay would be “minuscule” in nature — lasting no more than “maybe 15 or 20 seconds” from the moment the opening prompt begins.
Councilman Ted Combes raised the question of whether the system would eventually mean faster response times for emergency calls. On this, Chief O’Brien could make no guarantees, but he was willing to assure the Council that the automated system would make it far less likely that citizens calling the non-emergency number for non-emergency matters would find themselves placed on hold because the dispatcher was dealing with an emergency call.
As of right now, the Londonderry Fire Department has yet to determine the exact day that the automated phone system will go live. But Chief O’Brien did state that any and all information related to the date of the switch would be posted on the town’s website as soon as it becomes available.
These efforts to streamline the emergency communications system come on the heels of last week’s severe weather events that tasked the Londonderry Fire Department with responding to two house fires and multiple reports of downed power lines throughout the area.