Douglas County Alerts Help Map COVID-19

June 12, 2020 by Dana Rasmussen

Douglas County Alerts Help Map COVID-19

As COVID-19 continues to cause health emergencies throughout the world, public safety agencies need a way to reduce exposure for first responders and track positive cases.

Dispatchers with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office (DCSO) in Colorado actively work to protect first responders in Douglas and Elbert counties by utilizing alerts in the department’s computer aided dispatch (CAD) system.

“With alerts in our CAD system, dispatchers are able to provide law enforcement and fire crews with information regarding addresses where individuals have tested positive for COVID-19,” Douglas Regional Communications Manager Grace Reinis said. “With these alerts, we’re able to let first responders know that they need to exercise additional precautions during a call for service.”

To set these health-related alerts, the DCSO created a specific questionnaire asking just two initial questions of all incoming callers regarding any possible COVID-19 symptoms and whether they or another household member has been asked to quarantine.

“The questionnaire created no additional work for dispatchers, and it populates on our CAD form immediately,” said Principal Applications Specialist Tommy Hanson of the DCSO. “We’re able to post that data out so that we know if first responders have been exposed to COVID-19 on a call for service.”

What helps the DSCO set these alerts so efficiently is an import tool that automatically pulls the address data of positive cases into the agency’s CAD system. This allows for first responder to prepare with personal protection equipment (PPE), which offers further protection in the event of restraining an individual with COVID-19.

“With the import tool, we can populate any number of addresses, and it takes approximately one minute to get the data into a spreadsheet and share it on our server,” Hanson said. “It’s a huge time saver. We’ve saved ourselves hours of work.”

All data pertaining to COVID-19 cases is then sent to command staff and fire chiefs on a weekly basis. With this capability, public safety officials know exactly where hot spots are occurring within the communities they serve. They also gather COVID-19 data from bordering communities outside of their jurisdiction, providing an extra layer of insight and security for first responders and residents.

To ensure the most current data is always available, alerts automatically expire after 30 days. However, CAD administrators have found that many times the alerts need to be extended as members of the same household or residential facility test positive.

“From the time the pandemic started, and our area began to have cases, we wanted to protect first responders,” Reinis said. “The alerts and import tool that we use are excellent and very useful for our responders as they both improve situational awareness. We look at this as an opportunity to be safe and make a difference for the first responders who are on the front lines already.”

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