Dispatchers Use Software to Save Lives

August 26, 2020 by Devin Culham

Dispatchers Use Software to Save Lives

When an emergency occurs on Lake St. Clair – a 400 square mile lake bordered by metro Detroit and Canada – time is of the essence. One winter, a dispatcher received a call that a man was stranded on the lake’s surface after his four-wheeler fell into the thawing ice. The man, who was lost in the dense fog surrounding the lake, had no way of knowing which direction offered safety. First responders knew if they wanted to save the man, they would have to act fast.

“Our dispatchers had very limited resources to attempt to located him,” Macomb County 911 communications administrator Angela Elsey told PoliceOne. “Because there are no cell phone towers in the water, we had to do our best to triangulate where we thought that person would be based on what tower the signal was hitting off of. We did our best to give the deputies the estimated location where we thought he was.”

Fortunately, the man was saved within a few hours. But for Macomb County Sheriff’s Office, the incident signaled an opportunity to do better.

Technology With the Power to Save Time

When Elsey and her colleagues saw a demo of a new emergency software at a technology conference, they immediately saw the value. Although MCSO was able to avoid an unfortunate ending with the man lost on the lake, without this technology, nobody could be sure that they would have the same success again. “The emergency software gives the dispatch center the location of the device, rather than an estimation of the location based on a cell tower signal,” said Elsey.

By utilizing the integration of the emergency software module with the MCSO’s computer aided dispatch, dispatchers can streamline their workflow and avoid redundancies during an emergency.

“Sometimes, the dispatcher is in the heat of the moment and that caller is in distress and throwing information at you,” shared Elsey. “The dispatcher doesn’t have that extra second to open up another piece of software and search something else.”

Now, when dispatchers receive a call, they can immediately see whether the call was placed via a landline or a mobile device. Once it has found the signal, the software uses “reverse geo-fencing” to mark the longitude and latitude of the device.

The integrated CAD can then take coordinates from the emergency software and convert it into an address that boasts an accuracy within three meters. For callers who are unsure of their location, this technology offers safety.

A ‘Lifesaving’ Resource

Since implementing the emergency module in December 2018, Macomb County Sheriff’s Office has already leaned into the software during emergencies.

During another emergency call on Lake St. Clair, dispatchers were able to quickly gather coordinates to send first responders to a boater in need of CPR.

“Without that location data available to us, it could have taken a significant amount of time to find a ‘dispatchable’ location for the patient,” said Elsey. Fortunately, in this instance, the emergency software saved a life.

“I think it’s important for the community and the citizens in Macomb County that we serve to understand that we strive to provide the best service to our citizens as possible,” Elsey commented. “So, we will always take advantage of the lifesaving resources out there and the most current and recent technology that can help us help them.”

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