Regional working group established to develop more cohesive emergency response

by | Jul 22, 2022

The following are highlights from today’s concurrent meeting with the Reno City Council, Sparks City Council, and Washoe County Board of County Commissioners:

1. Working group established to study regional emergency response: The cities of Reno and Sparks and Washoe County have recognized a fragmentation in the region with emergency response (dispatch, fire and medical) due to disparate dispatch systems, locations, varying semantics, and procedures.

“What we’re here to do today is to say, ‘How do we feel about regional dispatch?’ Is this a direction we want to move toward? If we are interested in this, then we’re looking for the path forward,” Commission Chair Vaughn Hartung said. “I’m very supportive of this, I think it’s a great idea. Regional dispatch only makes sense for us. The devil is in the detail, so I really want to see how this will all look, and I’m supportive of this concept in and of itself.”

The three entities agreed first to the guiding principles of an effort to improve emergency response in the region. In a separate action, the three entities voted to establish a regional working group to make recommendations on the development of a high-quality, efficient, and cost-effective service for the region including potential governance, funding, and deployment of resources. The working group is to be composed of stakeholders from fire, emergency medical services (EMS), law enforcement, and dispatch.

“In an emergency, saving lives is the utmost priority,” Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve said. “We know that our region’s residents aren’t going to care what logo the first responders are wearing; they are going to be concerned with how fast they get there and how quickly and efficiently they deploy those life-saving efforts. Today is another milestone for regional collaboration and a step in the right direction toward establishing the best dispatch system for our residents.”

“I’m thankful that as a region, we are working collaboratively to identify efficiencies that will allow the deployment of the nearest resources, no matter the jurisdiction, when residents call 911 during emergency situations,” said Sparks City Manager Neil Krutz.

2. Washoe County Health District to proceed with name change to Northern Nevada Public Health: The City Councils of Reno and Sparks and Washoe County Commission approved the name change of the Washoe County Health District (WCHD) to become Northern Nevada Public Health, Serving Reno, Sparks, and Washoe County, which won’t officially occur until 2023. 

Despite its name, WCHD is a regional entity and under the jurisdiction of the District Board of Health, which includes one elected official (and their appointee) from the City Councils of Reno and Sparks, and Washoe County Commission, as well as a physician. Members on the Concurrent Meeting and others have recognized growing public confusion over its scope and responsibility, and therefore instructed staff to explore a new name that better reflects what the district does and who it serves.  

District Health Officer Kevin Dick presented a proposal to change the name to Northern Nevada Public Health. The name was selected through a series of surveys and focus groups conducted by a third party, the Estipona Group. The name change will be gradual, with full adoption in 2023.