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Dispatchers man banks of computers monitoring fire and rescue and police communications with a shift of six or seven other dispatchers. The center handled nearly 200,000 calls for service last year.

After years of operating on separate dispatch systems, Fort Detrick and Frederick County have entered an agreement to join the Fort Detrick Police Department with the county’s emergency communications network.

Fort Detrick entered an Intergovernmental Support Agreement on Sept. 25 to join Frederick County’s computer-aided dispatch service, a communications system used by every other public safety agency in the county, said Emergency Management Director Jack Markey.

While the county already provided dispatch support for Fort Detrick Fire and Emergency Services, Fort Detrick police were not directly connected to the system, Markey added.

That often impeded the ability of Fort Detrick police to respond directly to calls on the installation.

“Prior to this agreement, we did not have a computer-aided dispatch system,” said Lanessa Hill, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Army Garrison on Fort Detrick. “So, a caller on Fort Detrick would reach the county system, and the county would have to call Fort Detrick to tell them something was happening on the installation.”

Fort Detrick paid a total of $240,426 for the first year of the agreement, according to documents from the county. That amount covers several purchases from Intergraph Corp., the company that provides software for the computer-aided dispatch system.

Some of those purchases include software licenses for the Fort Detrick dispatch center and police vehicles, Markey said. Some of the funding will also go toward new infrastructure to support the extension of the program to another public safety agency, including the addition of new dispatch positions.

Fort Detrick had been seeking to modernize its dispatch system for several years, according to Col. Scott Halter, garrison commander. In the wake of a deadly 2009 shooting at Fort Hood — an Army installation in Texas — the military set requirements for all bases to adopt digital emergency communications systems.

The garrison considered waiting for the Army to purchase new software, but Fort Detrick “was years out on the priority list,” Halter said. The installation also considered buying software through its own allocation funding, but it would have been significantly more expensive than joining the county system.

“In general terms, the benefit is that we’re more tightly joined in partnership with our local community,” Halter said. “The more we work together on things, the more we can save money and improve performance.”

Joining a mutual system will also allow Fort Detrick responders and dispatchers to view the location of other emergency service vehicles across the county, according to Markey.

“Communications experts have screens in front of them with maps that can show the status of available responding units in county and what their location is,” he said. “So, it might be that a unit from one agency is closer to an emergency than another agency — it can show if there’s a unit that might be more appropriate to respond to call.”

Follow Kate Masters on Twitter: @kamamasters.

Kate Masters is the features and food reporter for The Frederick News-Post. She can be reached at

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