The Barnstable County Police Radio System was established in 1933 by Sheriff Lauchlan Crocker as an experiment to determine the feasibility of public safety radio in Barnstable County. This “experimental system” was operated by one of the correctional officers at the House of Correction/County Jail.

In April of 1936, the purchase of a radio system that operated on 33.90 MHz in the then “state of the art” FM spectrum proved that radio communications could reduce response times by making it possible to dispatch motor patrols efficiently. Our existence was formalized in 1938 when the Massachusetts Legislature enacted Chapter 100, Acts of 1938 that authorized the County to operate a “police broadcasting radio system”.

The communications were being conducted in a “shack” that was located on the hill overlooking Barnstable Harbor next to the County Jail. To this day, the Communications Center is still affectionately known as “The Shack” to many of those in public safety.


Today, the Barnstable County Sheriff's Office (BCSO) Communications Center is under the supervision of Thomas Ashe, Chief Deputy of Emergency Communications. A staff of 39 consists of the Chief Deputy, Assistant Chief Deputy Jim Fletcher, 27 full-time telecommunicators, 2 part-time telecommunicators, and 10 part-time Centralized Medical Emergency Direction (CMED) Operators. All telecommunicators are certified in CPR, First Responder, Association of Public Safety Communication Officials (APCO) Basic Telecommunicator and APCO Emergency Medical Dispatch.

On July 11, 2007, the Communications Center moved its operation to the Joint Base Cape Cod Fire Station on the Massachusetts Military Reservation. In cooperation with the military, state and federal authorities, a memorandum of understanding was established for BCSO to co-share space at this new state-of-the-art facility.

The Communications Center is outfitted with the latest technology available in public safety communications. The Center has 8 multi-functional dispatch positions complete with ergonomically designed consoles. In addition, 6 computer screens are in place at each position to support radio communications, 911, computer aided dispatch (CAD) and mapping. Also in place are large video monitors to support all areas of operations during large scale or multi-jurisdictional events.

The 911 equipment provided by the State 911 Department provides our center with the ability to locate wireless calls that the center receives. This technology greatly enhances our ability to locate callers quickly and initiate a quick and efficient emergency response to those in need.

From the early days of "The Shack", services provided by the Communications Center have grown enormously over the years. Our center is widely recognized as one of the largest and most efficient regional communications centers in New England. Currently, our center serves as a regional 911 Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for the towns of Falmouth, Mashpee, Harwich, Chatham, Brewster, Orleans and Wellfleet, and Joint Base Cape Cod. This PSAP also serves as the back-up for several communities as well as Dukes County (Martha's Vineyard).







Fire and EMS Dispatch services are provided for the Barnstable and West Barnstable Fire Districts, as well as the towns of Bourne, Mashpee, Orleans, Wellfleet, Brewster, Dennis, Harwich and Joint Base Cape Cod. The Barnstable County Fire Mutual Aid System is maintained and dispatched from the BCSO Communications Center. In cooperation with the Barnstable County Fire Chiefs, all run cards, up to the 5th alarm, for all 20 fire departments are maintained and updated by the telecommunicator staff. When additional resources are needed, whether it is a multiple alarm fire, Mass Casualty Incident, search and rescue or large forest fires, all assignments are dispatched by the BCSO Communications Center.

Our CAD system, brings the latest, state-of-the-art computer system into the operation. This system is one of the most advanced CAD systems in the Northeast, and brings a tremendous amount of information and mapping resources to the fingertips of the telecommunicators.

The CMED system, which was established in 1973, was the first in the Commonwealth. Communications are provided for first responders to area hospitals by a system which consists of a UHF radio system, 6 radio towers and phone lines. Over 45,000 calls a year are processed for approximately 80 ambulances and 4 area hospitals. The CMED system also coordinates all aero-medical flights for the area including the United States Coast Guard during air and sea rescue operations.

There are many other dispatch functions and services provided by the Communications Center. The center often interacts with SE Massachusetts District 1 HazMat team, local gas and electric utility companies, Massachusetts Environmental Police, and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, just to mention a few.

With few exceptions, all radio communications are conducted on an 800MHz trunking radio system. The trunking system, owned by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is maintained by the State Police with the local assistance of BCSO radio technicians. In conjunction with the trunking system, the telecommunicators dispatch services using Motorola Gold Elite radio consoles.


For more information about emergency communications contact:

       Tom Ashe,
            Chief Deputy of Emergency Communications

       (508) 563-4210