A look at Fire and Police Communications across the Cape Cod area.
Updated January 1, 2016

Barnstable County Sheriff's Department
(10 Fire Departments)
Centerville (COMM) Fire Station
(2 Fire Departments)
Chatham Fire Station
(1 Fire Department)
Falmouth Fire Station
(1 Fire Department)
Hyannis Fire Station
(1 Fire Department)
Sandwich Fire Station
(1 Fire Department)
Yarmouth Fire Station
(1 Fire Department)

Eastham Police Station
(Fire & Police)
Provincetown Police Station
(Fire & Police)
Sandwich Police Station
(Fire & Police coming in 2016)
Truro Fire / Police Station
(Fire & Police)
Dukes County Sheriff's Communications
(8 Island Fire Departments, all police, and other agencies)
Nantucket Fire Station
(Fire dispatch)
Plymouth Sheriff's Department
(Plymouth County Control & CMED)
Plymouth Fire Station
(1 Department)
Onset Fire Station
(Onset Fire)
Wareham Fire Station
(Wareham Fire Department)


Barnstable County Control
The Barnstable County Sheriff's Office (BSO) had one of the first radio systems
on the Cape back in the 1930s. The first radio room was literally located in a "Shack"
on "the hill" next to the jail in Barnstable village. To this day, long since removed from
the original building, the Sheriff's radio room is still referred to as "THE SHACK."
Call signs KCA 376 (Police radio) and KCB 781 (Fire radio)
were dominant for years as the agency provided a wide range of
communications services to all fire and police departments
in the Cape & Islands region.

Dispatchers at the original "Shack"

"Modern Console" at the Shack in the 1970s.

The Shack has always served as an interface between fire and police departments
in the Cape & Islands area. In addition to is primary role as the Sheriff's radio
communication (house of corrections, BCI, K9 services, etc) it has always been
the center for police broadcasts (GBCs. GIs, and BOLOs) for area police departments.
Fire and police departments could also go through the BSO to contact utilities
such as the electric company, gas company, and others for emergency responses.
It has had a direct phone line to the State and National Warning Points
for civil defense, natural disasters, weather, and other vital emergency
notifications since long before the computer age.

Barnstable CMED in the early days.

Dispatch Peter Thomas c.1980's

In the mid 1970s, it became home to Barnstable CMED (Centralized Medical Emergency Direction)
as part of the new Cape & Island Emergency Medical Services System, connecting all
area ambulances to the 4 area hospitals (Cape Cod, Falmouth, Tobey, and Martha's Vineyard)
for medical orders as the Cape's Paramedic system was born (first in the state!).
It continues to do so today with over 40,000 EMS calls annually.

Old Mutual Aid Control board at the Shack.

In 1994, the BSO became "Barnstable County Control"
serving as the mutual aid control center for the Cape Cod area.
This function had previously been performed by the Yarmouth Fire Department
since its inception in the 1950s.
This was part of one of the first organized mutual aid systems in the State,
utilizing run cards, a common mutual aid channel, etc...
BCC "KCB 781" conducts a daily fire network radio test daily at approximately 0915 hrs.

NOTE: For historical accuracy, while the Yarmouth FD served as the mutual aid
center (KCD 246 and later KNCS 289), the "daily radio test" was
always done by the Hyannis Fire Department (KCD 454) until taken over
by the Sheriff's Department.

The mutual aid center is responsible
for maintaining a record of all apparatus in and out of service (availability)
and dispatching of all mutual aid requests, including everything from
a single ambulance to a full "working structure fire" apparatus assignment,
and up to and beyond 5 alarms, with all appropriate coverage and move-up
assignments across the county. This is done by pre-determined run cards
developed by the individual departments and a mutual aid committee.
BCC also has direct communications with the Massachusetts Emergency
Management Agency (MEMA) via dedicated radio channels as part of
the Massachusetts Fire Mobilization Plan and can access resources from
any of the other counties within the state if needed via MEMA.

The Shack on the Hill in Barnstable Village.

Since the early days of the Shack, the Sheriff's Department dispatched
for the Barnstable and West Barnstable Fire Departments
(probably as a courtesy and for practical purposes, as neither
department was manned at the time).
The Barnstable FD's siren was right outside the window of the
BSO radio room on "the hill" behind the Barnstable fire station
under the big antenna next to the jail. One round for noon test,
two rounds for rescue, and five rounds for fires.

Dispatch console in the Shack in the 1990s.

During the 1990s, as E-911 was implemented across the Cape
and departments began to look at other options for their fire dispatch,
the Sheriff's department offered their services.

Bourne and Mashpee fire departments that had once dispatched
for themselves, had in recent years been dispatched by their local
police departments. They were the first "outside" fire departments
to come to the BSO. Soon Brewster and Orleans fire departments,
also dispatched by their police departments came to BSO for fire
and EMS dispatch.

In the late 1990s the Massachusetts State Police established an
800 Mhz "trunked" radio system and as part of that system,
all fire departments and most of the police departments in
Barnstable County (Cape Cod) moved onto the system.
Fire communications typically was on low band (33.xx)
prior to that.

BSO also began serving as the 911 PSAP for a number of Cape towns
ultimately including Falmouth, Mashpee, Brewster, Harwich, Chatham,
and Orleans, with secondary PSAP responsibilities for Bourne, Barnstable,
West Barnstable, and Dennis fire departments.

The BSO also became the Massachusetts Hazardous Materials
District 1 control point activating all hazardous materials team
responses for southeastern Massachusetts (Barnstable, Dukes, Nantucket,
Bristol, Plymouth, and Norfolk Counties) from the team's
inception until just recently when that role was transferred to
Norfolk County Control.

Early computers at BSO and the beginning of Computer Aided
Dispatch (CAD) for mutual aid and more.

In July 2007, the Sheriff's Department Communications Center
left its long time home on "the Hill" and "The Shack" moved into
the brand new Otis Fire Department
(Massachusetts Military Reservation - MMR)
Fire Headquarters on the base, with a brand new radio room
and added responsibilities.
Soon MMR and the Dennis Fire Departments were being dispatched
by BSO, bringing the total to 8 departments, 
Wellfleet Fire Department came in 2012.
Harwich Fire in 2013 bringing total to 10 Fire Alarms.

The radio room at the MMR Fire Station

Two of the eight possible dispatch console positions at the BSO
overlooking the airfield. (Positions 5 & 6)

The "County" position at Barnstable Sheriff's Department
handles routine phone and radio traffic for the agency and
serves as the mutual aid dispatcher as well as dispatching
Barnstable and West Barnstable FDs.

Today the Barnstable Sheriff's Department Communications Center at MMR
has 8 completely computerized consoles available for communications.
Seven positions are staffed days and evenings, and six on midnights.
Position 1
Dispatches Bourne and Orleans FDs
Position 2
Is the primary 911 answering point
Position 3
Dispatches Harwich and Wellfleet FDs
Position 4
 Is known as "County" doing the Sheriff's Department, police services,
as well as Mutual Aid, Barnstable and West Barnstable FD dispatch.
Position 5
Dispatches Mashpee and Brewster FDs
Position 6
Dispatches for MMR and Dennis FDs.
 Position 7
Is the CMED Position
Position 8
Is currently not actively utilized or staffed, although
it is fully functional if needed.

All dispatchers rotate around the room on a schedule and are trained
at all positions. The adjacent positions back each other up when
multiple incidents are in progress at the same time
(which of course, they always are!)

Each position utilizes a 6 screen, two keyboard, 3 mouse setup
with dispatchers having access to all radio channels via mouse,
all 911 calls via mouse, and CAD maps and logs.


Barnstable Fire
Fire Dispatch by Barnstable County Sheriff's Department
Police by Barnstable Police Department

Fire Station known as "KCF 481"
Dispatched by "KCB 781"


Fire Dispatch by Barnstable County Sheriff's Department
Police by Bourne Police Department

"Old" Bourne fire station dispatch room c.1980s

Bourne Fire Department dispatched for itself until the 1990s
when the Bourne Police took over.
Today dispatch is by the Sheriff's Department.

Previously "KCD 497"
Currently known as "KNAW 393"

Fire Dispatch by Barnstable Sheriff's Department
Police by Brewster Police Department

Brewster Fire / Police Dispatch c.1974 new station.

The Brewster Fire Department and Police Department shared
as station for many years, with the Police doing the dispatch.
The police moved into their own facility in the 2000's and
continued to dispatch for the FD until it came to the Sheriff's Department.

Previously "KCD 845"
Then "WPWJ 582"
New 2012 "WQON 307"


Centerville-Osterville-Marstons Mills Fire Department
Fire Dispatch by COMM Fire Department
Police by Barnstable Police Department

Dispatch center at Centerville Fire Station.
Console was upgraded and rearranged in March 2014

Dispatch center at Centerville Fire Station.
Dispatches for COMM and Cotuit Fire Departments.
Note: Refurbished in March 2014.

Prior to 1991 when the new Centerville Fire  Station opened,
the Osterville Fire Station was the dispatch center for COMM
and Cotuit.

Known as "KCD 760" on County
and "KZR 432" on fire dispatch.


Fire Dispatch by COMM Fire Department
Police by Barnstable Police Department

For as long as anyone can remember, the COMM FD
(originally C-O FD) dispatched for Cotuit. Originally at the
Osterville station and then Centerville.

Previously "KCD 815"
Currently "KNHD 618"


Fire Dispatch by Chatham Fire Department
Police by Chatham Police Department

"Dispatch in a Box"
During construction of the new Chatham Fire Headquarters in 2015-16
all operations, including dispatch, were moved to the DPW
on Crowell Road.

Chatham Dispatch in the box is not ideal but it will work until the new station opens in 2016.


Chatham Fire Dispatch
In the old fire station.

Fire Dispatch previously "KCD 594"
Currently "WQHF 966"


Fire Dispatch by Barnstable Sheriff's Department
Police by Dennis Police Department

Fire Dispatch in the "old" Dennis Fire Station c.1980s.

The Dennis Fire Department dispatched for itself for many years
at its old and new headquarters.

Fire dispatch moved to the County after the BSO moved to the MMR.

Dispatch was previously "KCD 492"
Then "WQGK 516"
New 2012 "WQBB 922"


Dukes County
Fire Dispatch by the Dukes County Sheriff's Department
Police by Dukes County Sheriff's Department
(County communications center)

New Dukes County Communications Center
went online in 2013. Four positions are available if needed.
Photo June 2014

The Vineyard's equivalent of "The Shack"
Located on the property of the Martha's Vineyard Airport
serves as the dispatch center for 66 agencies including all
fire, police, EMS, harbor masters, environmental police, dog catchers,
and anything else that has a radio on the island.

Note: New Comm Center moved into new building in 2013.

Dukes County Comm Center.
A new communications center is being built and is expected to open in 2012.

Fire Dispatch previously "KCE 288"
Fire dispatch currently "WQAS 838"
Also uses "WPRS 252" on operations channel


Fire Dispatch by the Eastham Police Department
Police by Eastham Police Department

Eastham Police, Fire, and EMS Dispatch Center at Eastham Police Station

Eastham Dispatch

Fire Dispatch "KCD 574"
(Note: Mashpee FD is KCF 574)


Fire Dispatch by Falmouth Fire Department
Police by Falmouth Police Department

The Falmouth Fire Department had one of the most
modern and advanced communications centers dating way back.
They are one of the only departments on the Cape to have had
a full "Gamewell" type fire alarm systems (Street Boxes).
This is the radio room at the fire station c.1950s.


Falmouth FD's console c.1980s.

Present day dispatch center at Falmouth Headquarters.

Fire Dispatch "KCD 244"

Radio channels now controlled by a mouse

Two consoles in dispatch for busy times

New console and old reel to reel punch tape on left still in service

Box 1612

Fire Dispatch by Barnstable Sheriff's Department (2013)
Was by Harwich Fire Department
Police by Harwich Police Department
(was previously a Combined dispatch center)

"KCD 271"
Fire department console c.1950s-1960s.

Harwich Fire and Police Communications center in combined facility c.2009.

Fire dispatch previously "KCD 271"
Currently "WPVT 449"


Fire Dispatch by Hyannis Fire Department
Police by Barnstable Police Department

Hyannis Fire Dispatch overlooks the apparatus floor.

The previous console was located near the front of the station prior to
renovations in the 1980s. Hyannis "KCD 454" used to conduct the daily county
fire radio test (roll call) of all departments at 0900 hrs prior to 1994.

Fire Dispatch "KCD 454"


Fire Dispatch by Barnstable Sheriff's Department
Police by Mashpee Police Department

Mashpee Fire Department dispatch console c.1980s

Originally Fire Department dispatched themselves.
Mashpee Police took over in 1990s.
Sheriff's Department took over in 2000's

"Fire Dispatch "KCF 574"


Fire Dispatch by Nantucket Police Department c. 2014
Police by Nantucket Police Department

Console at Nantucket Fire Department
Used when fire department dispatched for itself.

Now dispatched by Nantucket Police Dispatch

Fire Dispatch "KCF 907"



Fire Dispatch by Onset Fire Department
Police by Wareham Police Department
EMS by Wareham Police Department

Onset Fire Station dispatch center.

Fire Dispatch "KCA 410"


Fire Dispatch by Barnstable Sheriff's Department
Police by Orleans Police Department

Fire dispatch was previously by Orleans Police Department.

Fire Dispatch "KCD 556"


Plymouth County Control
Dispatch Center at Plymouth County Sheriff's Department
also handles all Mutual Aid for Plymouth County District 2
as well as operating Plymouth CMED.
Fire departments in Plymouth County are dispatched by a variety
of agencies, including police, fire, and state police.
Town Police by Plymouth Police Department and other local communities.

Plymouth County Control

Plymouth County Control "WPPG 990"


Fire Dispatch by Plymouth Fire Department
Police by Plymouth Police Department

Plymouth Fire Department's console in the front
of the Plymouth Headquarters.

Plymouth Fire Headquarters Dispatch Aug 2010

Fire Dispatch "KCA 585"

Plymouth Fire Headquarters Dispatch

Fire Dispatch by Provincetown Police Department
Police by Provincetown Police Department

Communications center at Provincetown Police Station
dispatches for police, fire, and EMS.

Fire Dispatch previously "KCD 697"
Current Fire Dispatch "WXT 893"


Fire Dispatch by Sandwich Fire Department
Police by Sandwich Police Department

Sandwich Fire Department console c.1990's

New Sandwich Fire Department console c.2010.

Fire Dispatch "KCD 498"

The Sandwich Emergency Communications Center
located in the Sandwich Police Station will combine all
fire-EMS-police dispatching in one room early in 2016.


Consoles have changed significantly, as have the expectations of dispatchers
in newer communications centers.


Fire Dispatch by Truro Police Department
Police by Truro Police Department

Older photo of Truro's new police and fire dispatch center in the new
Police / Fire Station c.1994.

Truro Police and Fire Dispatch center.

Fire Dispatch "KCF 264"

Truro console.


Fire Dispatch by Yarmouth Fire Department
Police by Yarmouth Police Department

Rather simple "new" console in the Yarmouth Fire Station c.1980s.

Yarmouth Fire Dispatch 2010's

As mentioned previously, the original "Barnstable County" mutual aid system
had its roots in Yarmouth. The original run cards and apparatus tags were developed
in the Yarmouth Fire Station as far back as the 1950s and 1960s.
Yarmouth continued to dispatch mutual aid for all Cape departments until 1994
when that task was transferred to the Barnstable Sheriff's Department.

Old mutual aid board at Yarmouth Fire Department c.1980s.

Yarmouth Fire Department
previous call sign "KCD 246"
current call sign "KNCS 289"

Yarmouth Fire Dispatch was temporarily moved to a second floor former bunk room in June 2013
while a new dispatch center was built at the Yarmouth FD.

Yarmouth dispatch in transition June 2013

The new Yarmouth Fire Dispatch July 2013




Fire Dispatch by Wellfleet Police Department
Police by Wellfleet Police Department

Wellfleet Fire and Police dispatch at Police Station.

Fire Dispatch "KCD 500"
New Wellfleet 2012 "WQBB 922"

Wellfleet Fire Dispatch is moving to Barnstable County in March 2012.


West Barnstable
Fire Dispatch by Barnstable Sheriff's Department
Police by Barnstable Police Department

"KCF 319"
Radio console at West Barnstable Fire Station c.1980s.

West Barnstable has always been dispatched by the Sheriff's Department
but did have their own console and capability to operate independently
if necessary.

Station known as "KCF 319"
Now dispatched as "WQDR 782"