Verdugo Fire Communications Center History
- Limited local resources,
- Voluntary mutual aid with an average 45-minute delay,
- Unfamiliarity with neighboring cities’ geography,
- Nonstandard fire-fighting tactics,
- Incompatible equipment, and a lack of common radio frequencies.
They recognized a need for a single Fire/EMS communications center which would support mitigation of these issues; prior to 1979, they were each dispatched by their Police Department Communications Centers.
The benefits of a localized dispatch center were recognized immediately. In its first year of operation, Verdugo dispatched over 19,000 incidents. The agreement among the three cities included a “no borders” clause – the closest fire engine responded to calls regardless of jurisdiction.
There were 23 fire stations initially in the borderless system, and up to 15 fire engines could be dispatched to a major incident without delay. Specialized equipment was shared among the three cities, including an Air Utility, a Hazardous Materials unit, and an Urban Search and Rescue unit.
The name “Verdugo” was chosen for the Verdugo Mountain range which spans the geography of the three cities. The City of Glendale was further chosen by the Fire Chiefs for the Center’s setting as it was a centralized location.
In 1996, the cities of South Pasadena and San Marino contracted for fire dispatch services, which added two more fire stations to the system and an increase of approximately 2,500 incidents per year. Eight more fire stations were added in 1999 when the cities of Monrovia, Arcadia, and Sierra Madre joined the Verdugo System, and in 2000 when San Gabriel was added.
Ten additional stations were added when Monterey Park, Alhambra and Montebello joined the Verdugo System in February 2005, April 2006, and February 2009, respectively. In September 2011, the Hollywood Burbank Airport Authority (Bob Hope Airport) became the 13th agency to contract for Verdugo’s dispatch services. In June 2016, Vernon joined adding 4 more stations to the Verdugo System bringing the total to 48 fire stations.
The communications center is now considered a “regional” dispatch center due to its area of responsibility and coordination efforts. It serves as Area Coordinator (Area C) within Region I for State of California Mutual-Aid purposes. The center continues to be jointly overseen and managed by the Burbank, Glendale, and Pasadena Fire Chiefs.
Verdugo is located on the third floor of Fire Station 21 at 421 Oak Street in Glendale, California. The facility was built in 1994 and the center occupies 5,800 square feet. The center serves a combined population of over 837,000 residents, covering a geographic area of just over 134 square miles. There are 48 fire stations with over 180 emergency response apparatus. In the most recent calendar year for 2016, Verdugo handled 177,610 phone calls and dispatched 81,897 incidents. Verdugo strives to continuously be a “state-of-the-art” center, enhancing equipment and support systems with regular updates with new technology.
Dialing 9-1-1 in any of the cities served by Verdugo Fire Communications Center connects a caller to local police or to CHP dispatchers (for those calling on a cellular phone near freeway cell sites), who then each determine the nature of the emergency and subsequently transfer all fire and paramedic calls to Verdugo.
When an emergency call is received by Verdugo, a dispatcher enters the pertinent details into the computer-aided dispatch system and the incident details are immediately transmitted via the voice radio and data system to the closest apparatus to the incident. Emergency personnel are generally on the road within a minute or two of receiving the information and remain in constant radio contact with the communications center as additional details are received.
Verdugo strives to staff the center with a minimum of three dispatchers and one supervisor on duty around the clock. Regular shifts are twelve hours and begin either at 6:30 a.m. or 6:30 p.m.
Visitors from communication centers and fire departments around the world have toured our facility, including groups from Australia, China, England, Japan and Russia as well as many dispatchers from all over the United States.
Verdugo celebrated 35 years of service in October 2014.