Better Navigation Helps First Responders

Imagine a life-threatening situation where an individual has trouble breathing and needs medical assistance. Like most emergencies, time is of the essence, but in situations where an individual is having difficulty breathing, a fast response is even more critical.

Now imagine being a dispatcher who knows there is an individual in dire need of help, but the address given by the caller is incorrect. While dispatchers can provide as much verbal assistance as possible, many times medical intervention is necessary. In a situation where the address is incorrect, dispatchers must race to find the correct address to help route first responders to the scene.

Contrary to what many think, addresses are not always concrete. In some communities, when any commercial or residential structure is built, the builder submits the address to the city or county planner. In most cases, this creates the official address of the structure.

However, sometimes a business or individual will elect to use a different address, such as a main street versus a side road if the main street is more well-known. This decision to use a different address isn't always a problem, they still receive their mail even though it is not the official city or county issued address. The company's letterhead and mailing address is given out to their customers, but it is not the official city or county issued address, which can then delay first responders.

Communities where address data is maintained in spreadsheets requires information to be entered line- by-line into a 911 communication center's computer aided dispatch (CAD) system. While this method is effective, it leaves room for user error and does not leverage current mapping and routing technology. And in some cases, help arrives too late.

But there is a better way to dispatch; a way that ensures addresses are correct every time. To do this, 911 call centers need CAD software with geo-verification capabilities.

When communication centers are equipped with geo-verification functionality in their CAD systems, as soon as a call comes in, dispatch can locate the call manually or from a cellular phone tower. This data is then cross-referenced with the geographic information system (GIS) information in a call center or agency's CAD system. The location is then automatically plotted on the map, which helps dispatchers to be more efficient and respond faster to emergencies.

This cross-referencing functionality means dispatchers are notified immediately if an address is not correct, which helps them to initiate more questions to get a quicker and more accurate response.

Dispatchers and first responders with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office in Colorado use this technology every day to keep their community safe.

Watch: Douglas County Dispatchers Discuss Dispatching using Tyler's Text-to-911


With a population of more than 330,000 residents, Douglas County is one of the fastest growing communities in the state. It's located between Colorado Springs and Denver and covers more than 840 square miles. All of this means having the ability to send an accurate and fast response is imperative, according to Capt. Brad Heyden.

"Equipping our first responders and dispatchers with the tools necessary to provide the best response possible to our community is what we strive to do," Heyden said.

Case Study Highlights

  • Geo-verification capabilities keep addresses updated to ensure correct dispatch response every time.
  • Communication centers that have geo-verification technology are able to locate the call manually or from a cell phone tower.
  • Cross-referencing functionality means that dispatchers are notified immediately if an address cannot connect.

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