Tracking Emergency Response in Ramsey County
May 09, 2019 by
Photo credit:Davin Brandt, Big Idea Signs
In the month of March, public safety personnel at agencies located in Ramsey County, Minnesota, responded to 36,644 law enforcement calls and 6,309 medical or fire emergency calls, up 7.6 percent over the same period the year before.
New data, released in April on the county's open data portal and Dispatch Incident Dashboard, which is powered by Socrata, gives the public, as well as government employees and decision-makers, a comprehensive, incident level, look at the state of the county's requests for service. Ramsey County operates the state's largest Emergency Communications Center which dispatches calls for service on behalf of all public safety agencies in the county.
Ramsey County Open Data Portal Coordinator Kristine Grill called the new data release "a mile-marker" for the county.
"Thanks to the strong partnerships with these agencies, this represents a significant jump forward for us as a data program," Grill says.
These dashboards, built with Socrata Perspectives, help governments give more context to their data and connect the dots between policy and outcomes with a compelling narrative. The county has taken a proactive approach to sharing these data stories, for example, with another recent release on their elections annual report.
For nearly two years, the emergency communications team worked with law enforcement, fire, and medical agencies from jurisdictions across the county to agree on what Computer Automated Dispatch (CAD) system call data would be published. The data provides an overview of the county's emergency services jurisdictions, where they're responding, and what calls they're responding to, while carefully balancing privacy concerns and the value of public information. One goal was to proactively give the public self-service access to the data, rather than spend employee hours responding to records requests.
"We receive requests for this data on a regular basis," Grill said. "This fills a need we see from the public — it's a big transparency piece."
For example, the public can see that of the 42,953 incidents in Ramsey County in March, 27,829, or 64.8 percent, came from Saint Paul. (Saint Paul accounts for about 56 percent of the county's population, according to U.S. Census data).
The incident dashboards allow users to drill farther into the data to see details about specific types of incidents. For example, the dashboard reveals that St. Paul Police Department's East District responded to more traffic stops in March than any agency in the county.
Particularly for folks who work in management, Grill says the new portal has the potential to inform decisions. Now, government leaders can quickly analyze data to see outliers and trends.
"There can be a misconception about the work of first responders," says Grill. "While some fire departments do focus on traditional fire calls, many Ramsey County fire departments also respond to medical issues, which make up a majority of their calls."
Of all the calls handled by fire departments in the month of March, 5,059, or 80 percent, are classified under medical. Just one percent of the calls they responded to involved smoke in an apartment, and only five percent for an alarm sounding.