About six years ago, Mansfield Police Chief Ron Sellon’s son fell and split his head open.
His wife used her cellphone to call 911, and the call went directly to state police headquarters in Framingham. She reported what happened and the call was transferred to a local police department and then to the fire department. Each time his wife told dispatchers what happened.
“It was well over 11 minutes at that point,” Sellon said.
Now, if that call is made in Foxboro or Mansfield the response time will be quicker because it will go to the Southeastern Massachusetts Regional Emergency Communications Center, which is temporarily headquartered at the Foxboro Public Safety Building.
“That person at the other end of the line is going to be able to dispatch an ambulance immediately,” Sellon said.
The two towns were the first to go online when the regional dispatch center opened last week. Norton and Easton are expected to join when a $2 million, permanent regional center building opens next July on High Rock Road in the F. Gilbert Hills State Forest in Foxboro. The money for the center is coming from state grants.
Handling cellphone calls more quickly is only one of the benefits of the regional center, but it is important because fewer people use or even have land lines, officials say.
Robert Verdone, the executive director of the regional dispatch center, estimates about 80 percent of all 911 calls received at the center are from cellphones.
In addition to saving time in emergencies, municipal officials have said the regional dispatch center saves the four towns a combined $1.6 million a year.
The center has all the state-of-the-art, high-tech computer equipment and banks of monitors to display the calls. Through GPS and cell tower information, emergency officials can pinpoint the location of a cellphone, and maps appear on the monitors displaying the area.
Using a smartphone app, police and fire officials can get the information sent to their cellphones, Verdone said.
When a call came in to the center June 3 for an accident on North Street in Foxboro, an automated voice barked the location.
While police and fire officials were gearing up to respond, dispatchers were busy gathering information to pass along to the first responders, Verdone said.
There are four stations for dispatchers to work from and currently there are 13 staff members who work 12-hour shifts, with three or four working at a time, Verdone said.
The towns formed a regional dispatch center as a way of reducing costs and to become eligible for funding from the state, which is encouraging more communities to regionalize.
A regional dispatch center in Norfolk that opened in March handles calls from Wrentham, Plainville, Norfolk and Franklin.
As part of the training, dispatchers at the Foxboro center toured the Xfinity Center and Mansfield Municipal Airport in Mansfield, where Med Flight helicopters are dispatched, and Gillette Stadium in Foxboro.
They also rode with police and fire officials in both towns, Verdone said.