When a gunman was on the loose in rural Oregon, public safety personnel worked quickly to get the killer into custody.
In late June 2016, a 911 call came in to the Marion Area Multi-Agency Telecommunications Center (METCOM) reporting a shooting incident. The caller stated that at least one person was dead and others were injured. The shooter had fled the scene.
The dispatcher who took the call immediately began collecting more information and entered it into his computer aided dispatch (CAD) system. The dispatcher discovered the shooting took place in a rural area that bordered two county jurisdictions; METCOM dispatches police and EMS to one of the counties and uses mutual aid from the other county. Mutual aid is an agreement among emergency responders to lend assistance across jurisdictional boundaries.
Due to the severity of the call, the dispatcher with METCOM dispatched the local city police department to respond as automatic aid and coordinated efforts with mutual aid fire and EMS districts. Automatic aid is assistance that is dispatched automatically by a contractual agreement between two fire departments, communities, or fire districts.
When the first rescue units arrived on the scene, they began treating two victims who had gunshot wounds; the third victim was already dead.
"This particular call for service was something we don't get a lot of at METCOM," director Gina Audritsh said. "Being that the incident took place in a rural area, we're glad we had the ability to dispatch first responders to this call and get the individuals the help they needed."
As an active homicide investigation with the shooter's whereabouts unknown, METCOM dispatchers coordinated a multi-agency response. This included auto-paging the incident activity to the agency's Homicide Investigation Team and Tactical SWAT team from Woodburn Police Dept.
To track all responders involved in this call for service, dispatchers monitored activity using the automatic vehicle location functionality (AVL) available in their CAD maps. This provided dispatchers with the ability to track locations and denote any area that fell within the boundaries of each law enforcement jurisdiction so that all agencies could be notified.
In addition, METCOM's incident commander tracked all activity on CAD using built-in functionality that allowed for browsing where all units are located and what calls they're responding to, which ensures no communication was lost between agencies.
This ability to track tips and location information and add narrative about the crime and search for the suspect helped the five dispatchers assigned to the call, command staff, first responders and everyone else working the case to access mission-critical information throughout the search and investigation.
Within eight hours of the initial call for service, the suspect was captured outside of the county trying to flee the state.
"This was a major incident for our community and it had a lot of moving parts," Audritsh said. "Having the tools necessary to ensure we can provide a level of service to our residents is remarkable."
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With intelligence led policing, the Oxnard Police Dept. in California is reducing the number of gang shootings in the city.
Located in the Greater Los Angeles area, and with a population of about 207,000 residents, the Oxnard Police Department (PD) continually seeks ways of effectively addressing gang violence.
To combat this problem, the Oxnard PD uses information-driven policing techniques to help address gang activities, especially when there is a connection with violent crime.
In the spring of 2017, Oxnard experienced a rash of gang-related shootings, some of which were fatal. To address the violence, Oxnard PD Assistant Police Chief Jason Benites said that staff worked to identify parts of the city that were most likely to experience this violent crime.
Detectives, officers, and crime analysts worked together using data to identify these locations, so they could increase police presence in areas where the shootings occurred most frequently.
To do this, Benites said staff pulled information regarding the shootings from the department's law enforcement records management and analytic reporting systems. These systems helped determine when and where the shootings occurred, who was involved, and circumstances surrounding the events.
"When you can look at data that says the specific areas where an event has occurred and the specific time it occurred, it helps you to identify patterns," Benites said.
By collecting this data, the department was able to redeploy patrol officers to specific areas during specific times where the shootings occurred most frequently. Almost immediately, this increase in police presence helped reduce the shootings significantly.
"Having the ability to gather data that helps us strategically use our limited resources to their maximum potential helps us keep the community of Oxnard safer," Benites said.
When a fire tore through an Oregon high school, fire crews worked diligently to prevent injuries to students and staff.
The fire started in early May of 2012, which was just six months after the Marion Area Multi-Agency Emergency Telecommunications Center (METCOM) went live on its computer aided dispatch (CAD) software.
This meant that all those working at METCOM were using new technology that had changed their workflow significantly. However, this structure fire provided METCOM with the opportunity to test the new system and its fire response plan capabilities.
According to METCOM's director Gina Audritsh, when structure fires are reported, dispatchers must task the CAD system with producing an in-depth response. For instance, when a large structure fire is reported, response plans and preplans created by METCOM CAD managers and administrators for specific scenarios are drawn upon for a response.
In the case of the high school fire, as soon as the dispatcher entered the type of call into the CAD system, it knew the appropriate fire district to pull the response from along with which apparatus to send. In this case, three engines and a ladder truck were required for the first alarm.
"As soon as fire crews left the station, we had reports coming in that smoke could be seen coming from the building," Audritsh said. "That bumped the fire up another alarm immediately."
As the fire continued and escalated to a four-alarm response, the dispatcher used the CAD system to look at neighboring jurisdictions to pull more fire crews and apparatus to the school.
"What's great about our CAD system is that it already knows what ladder truck is the closest, which units are available and what stations can respond to any incident," Audritsh said. "This system can go deep within itself to pull more and more resources out so that any emergency gets the proper response. This prevents us from having to get on the phone and call other agencies and departments when an emergency is taking place."
While the school was damaged by the fire, there were no reported injuries and students returned to the building within a week.
From fugitives on the run to massive pileups, the stories from The Call show the type of dynamic situations dispatchers, first responders, sworn officers, and civilian employees handle on a daily basis and the role that technology plays while they make communities safer together.
In looking back at the first half of 2017, the following posts and videos to The Call highlight the work of public safety personnel throughout the country:
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When an inmate escaped from the Armstrong County Jail, tips from community members helped track the man's every move. In less than 48 hours, he was back behind bars facing new charges.
In July of 2015, an inmate who was granted special privileges for good behavior took advantage of the opportunity and escaped from the jail. The inmate was outdoors awaiting the arrival of a food truck when he disappeared.
While the escapee was on the run, he murdered a woman and stole two of her vehicles, according to 9-1-1 Coordinator Ron Baustert, who works for the Armstrong County Dept. of Public Safety.
"Quick capture may have prevented an untold number of other people being killed," Baustert said.
As soon as word regarding the jail break hit the community, the Armstrong County Department of Public Safety's 9-1-1 communication center received dozens of calls with tips as to the man's whereabouts.
According to Baustert, each of these tips taken by dispatchers was immediately entered into the county's computer aided dispatch (CAD) software.
This information included addresses and locations where the escapee was spotted, the description of the vehicle he stole while on the run and locations of where vehicles that matched that description were spotted. This information was stored digitally and accessible by all dispatchers so that each had access to the details of the CAD narrative in real time.
"It was important we had this information and the ability to enter it in quickly so we could share it with law enforcement officers in our community," Baustert said.
The man was ultimately captured when a 9-1-1 caller reported that the man had knocked on her door asking for help. The woman refused to offer help and instead called 9-1-1. At that time, the man fled in his stolen truck.
Local police quickly spotted the vehicle and were led on a short chase. The escapee then lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a police cruiser. He was apprehended and taken back into custody.
When a massive winter storm dumped almost a foot of snow on York County, PA, dispatchers and first responders worked diligently to provide emergency services to residents of the county. Take a look back at this article and read how call takers and dispatchers working for the York County Dept. of Emergency Services used their computer aided dispatch software to prioritize calls and handle the heavy call volume.
In March of 2017, just as spring was on the horizon, winter storm Stella dumped more than a foot of snow in parts of Pennsylvania.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) categorized the storm as a level three on the Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS). This score is comprised of the area affected by the snowstorm, the amount of snowfall, and the number of people living in the path of the storm.
However, for the more than 430,000 people living in the county, storm names and categories don't matter that much when roads are impassable, power is out, and motorists are stranded.
Dispatchers take thousands of calls per year, so it should come as no surprise that some of those calls are stranger than others.
In December of 2014, a dispatcher with the Armstrong County Dept. of Public Safety received a 9-1-1 call from a man asking to have a SWAT team come to his house. Dispatcher Brandon Dague knew immediately that this call was going to be different than most.
However, he proceeded to take down the man's information so he could send the appropriate help.
When the caller's address and number were entered into the county's computer aided dispatch (CAD) system, an alert was generated showing premise history information. This information indicated that this individual made frequent calls to 9-1-1 and was known to be violent toward first responders, especially law enforcement officers.
"We knew that this was a potentially dangerous situation, and we knew we had to keep all first responders safe when they went out there," Dague said. "Luckily the premise history information helps us know what we're dealing with so no one is blindsided when they arrive on the scene."
In this case, when the man claimed that his kitchen was on fire and he needed assistance, law enforcement officers were dispatched to his address. Because dispatch knew from premise history information that first responders could be in danger if they responded, Dague sent a police response first to secure the scene.
When police arrived on the scene, they discovered the man who called had a gun and there was no fire. The individual threatened the police officers with the gun and he was arrested.
"In cases like this, having information in our CAD system that we can relay to first responders helps keep everyone safer," Dague said. "When we have calls from individuals who are looking to make trouble, CAD helps us to have a quick way of knowing the backstory of the situation we're dealing with. It's an important tool to have in instances where individuals are putting their lives on the line."
When a bridge goes out in a community, dispatchers work even harder to route first responders to the scene of an emergency. But imagine what happens when numerous bridges are impassable throughout an entire county.
Pennsylvania has approximately 4,500 structurally deficient bridges, which will be repaired or replaced though the Rapid Bridge Replacement Project. While this is necessary, it does present a problem for dispatchers and first responders.
According to Ron Wolbert, the director of 911 operations for the Clarion County Office of Emergency Services, numerous bridges in Clarion County are in the process of being repaired or replaced.
"The bridge project has created new and interesting challenges for dispatch procedures," Wolbert said.
In one area of the county, primary responding agencies have been cut off from access to the areas they serve. To ensure the residents in this area still receive proper emergency services, response plans in the county's CAD system were reconfigured.
Now, the county's CAD system reassigns response areas and temporary alarm assignments for all responders in the impacted location. To do this, response times, access from adjoining townships and boroughs, and the availability of resources had to be factored in. These areas were then assigned roadblock areas on the county's CAD map and labeled and highlighted on screen for easy recognition by dispatchers.
"Dispatchers not only see the highlighted areas on their digital maps, but a labeled description advising of the exact procedures that need to be followed for a timely response," Wolbert said. "I can say the ease of use of the system, coupled with the many features we can utilize, has made the construction that comes with the bridge projects more manageable and not allowed it to become a disaster in our 911 center."
In the past decade, mapping has come a long way for public safety agencies and helps first responders get to the scene faster and safer.
When the Douglas County Sheriff's Office in Colorado upgraded to digital maps and did away with their paper maps, it helped improve routing and response times while also reducing crime and increasing officer safety.
According to Capt. Brad Heyden, Douglas County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state of Colorado. With that growth, it is important for the sheriff's office to maintain accurate geospatial information systems (GIS) data.
This GIS data helps dispatchers maintain up-to-date information regarding the county, which helps them send fast and accurate responses to calls for service. The Douglas County's Sheriff's Office utilizes the different map layers offered by the GIS capabilities in their computer aided dispatch (CAD) system to identify parcels and jurisdictions as well as retrieve premise history information and set up perimeters.
"Our GIS is so powerful and robust that even before a new construction project is complete, dispatchers have the building's address in our system," Heyden said. "In the past, having that information in our CAD system would have been impossible."
With these mapping capabilities, the sheriff's office is better able to make use of the data pulled from its public safety software system, specifically in terms of identifying areas in need of more patrol and detailing premise history.
Heyden explained that mapping areas with high calls for service helps CAD administrators and law enforcement officers increase patrol in specific locations, which helps to reduce calls for service in the area due to the presence of law enforcement.
The enhanced premise history capabilities are beneficial for first responders as they are aware of more information while on the scene. This information includes anything from prior contact with the individuals to known associates, specifics about the location including any hazards, drug history, and other details that could be dangerous for responders.
"Detailed premise history really helps make situations safer for first responders," Heyden said.
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