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.
According to Melony Kearns, computer aided dispatch (CAD) administrator for the York County Dept. of Emergency Services (YCDES), the storm caused an increase in the call volume at the communication center.
"Anytime we get a major weather event, the call volume increases," Kearns said. "But our dispatchers and CAD system handle it well."
To accommodate this increased call volume, Kearns said filters were applied within the CAD system to prioritize weather-related calls. This provided dispatchers with the ability to designate storm calls from other emergencies, which helped streamline responses.
This flexibility in CAD helped dispatchers and first responders meet the needs of the community members impacted by the storm. Prioritizing storm calls also helped dispatchers handle other calls for service coming into the communication center thereby maintaining the level of service expected by the community.
Luckily, Stella dropped most of the snowfall in the middle of the day, which helped with visibility issues for motorists and responders.
"These big storms can cause a lot of problems," Kearns said. "Luckily we have the tools necessary to keep things running smoothly in the community."
Spending more time on the road means law enforcement officers keep more criminals off the streets.
When officers have tools to use on the road, such as mobile data terminals (MDTs) – which are mobile computer aided dispatch terminals that allow first responders to communicate with dispatchers and each other from their vehicles - they can accomplish this goal more effectively.
In September 2015, a deputy with the Garfield County Sheriff's Office in Colorado caught two shooting suspects from a neighboring county. The deputy had received a "be on the lookout" (BOLO) alert for the suspects' vehicle through his MDT, so he was aware of the situation. Later that day, when the deputy was on the side of the road completing a report on a previous arrest, saw the suspects' vehicle drive by. He immediately entered the license plate number into his MDT and saw that the plate was expired, which gave the deputy cause to stop the vehicle.
Without the ability to run the plate from the road, the deputy would have had to communicate back and forth via radio with dispatchers to get the same information. While this practice is something all law enforcement officers have done in the past, technology helps to eliminate this step so that officers can access mission-critical information on the road without relying on radio transmissions with dispatch.
Similarly, without the ability to complete an arrest report or traffic citation on the road, law enforcement officers have to return to the office or station, which takes them off the road. In this particular instance, had the deputy been at the station and not on the road, it is possible the suspects would have gotten away.
The individuals in this case were subsequently prosecuted on the shooting charges and one is already serving time in prison for his involvement (the other individual is still in the court process).
Another deputy with the Garfield County Sheriff's Office used his MDT in a case involving a robbery. In this situation, a possible suspect was detained, but the suspect was not carrying any form of identification. The deputy who detained the suspect used his MDT to access an image from the suspect's prior mugshot for a positive identification.
Before using MDTs, deputies had to travel back to the station to receive mug shots or other images necessary for identification purposes. With MDTs, they are able to query with the software to search for and view images almost instantly. This helps deputies save time obtaining a positive identification while out on the field.
"Mobile capabilities greatly increase the overall effectiveness and efficiency of our deputies in the field" Garfield County Sheriff Office's Chief of Communications Andy Haffele said.
Officer safety is a vital element in an emergency response.
When dispatchers use a computer aided dispatch system with mobile capabilities, this functionality helps keep first responders safer.
The Douglas County Sheriff's Office in Colorado has this functionality, which means they're able to send alerts to mobile data terminals (MDTs) in first responders' vehicles.
Mobile functionality helps first responders see all calls for service, employ self-dispatching tactics and update the status of the call. It also sends alerts, which helps first responders be aware of premise history information and prior interactions with subjects or previous location history.
This information sharing helps dispatchers and first responders stay better connected, which bolsters officer safety as they have more information at their fingertips.
"With this additional information, our dispatchers give first responders the information they need to respond safely and effectively to those in need," Capt. Brad Heyden of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office said.
For instance, imagine a first responder heading out to a call for service regarding a domestic violence situation. If that first responder receives an alert from CAD regarding prior incident at the address of the call for service, he or she is better equipped with vital information. From there, the first responder could call for back up or make other decisions to keep all parties as safe as possible.
This capability is especially helpful for fire and EMS responders who may need to wait until law enforcement arrives on the scene. This is beneficial in situations where a call for service involves an individual being aggressive or in possession of a firearm.
"With this additional information, our dispatchers give first responders the information they need to know, which ultimately keeps officers and our communities safer," Heyden said.
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This article is part four of a four-part series on intelligence and reporting tools Part one | Part two | Part three | Part four
When it comes to big data in public safety, getting to the big picture is important.
At public safety agencies across the country, command staff need to be able to identify and digest information about their communities quickly. That means they need to have the ability to analyze the vast amounts of data collected and stored within their public safety software systems. With the right intelligence and reporting tools, dashboard functionality helps make this happen.
Dashboards provide a high-level overview into crime trends and help easily identify large spikes in crimes or patterns. This data helps command staff to gather the necessary information to take action so they are better able to predict, prevent and reduce crimes.
When intelligence and reporting tools offer dashboards, it helps public safety personnel who aren't as familiar with law enforcement records management software to look at the same information to view instant updates regarding trends or crimes happening at that moment.
This functionality is especially beneficial when command staff have a specific question that needs answered. For instance, if command staff needs to know if burglaries have increased in a specific area, dashboards provide the answer. This actionable intelligence helps command staff to reallocate resources if necessary to increase patrol and reduce crime, which leads to safer communities.
This article is part three of a four-part series on intelligence and reporting tools Part one | Part two | Part three
Data analysis plays an important role for public safety agencies as it can be used to help predict, reduce and prevent crimes. However, this is only possible when agencies possess the tools necessary to extract data from their public safety software system.
For example, if an agency needs to know how many tickets were issued in a specific week, a standard data analysis tool can generate a report with that information. This type of interaction is transactional in that it provides users with what they asked for, but it does not offer anything additional.
To obtain additional information, public safety agencies need to use an intelligence and analytical tool that can do more with the data.
A robust intelligence and analytical tool is going to look at tickets issued and instantly break them down by time of day, day of the week, the frequency in which tickets were issued, what locations in a jurisdiction received tickets, and the percentage of increase for each of those issues. This same tool will display this information in Microsoft Excel pivot tables so it is easily digestible by users.
With Excel pivot tables, users can extract any information they request, so long as it exists in the system. Information is then generated in real-time and creates a report in less than 30 seconds. Without this tool, the same process could take hours.
Having this capability to use actionable intelligence stored in a public safety agency's own system provides users with the ability to generate a plan of action to predict, reduce and prevent crime.
Part 2 of a 4-part series on intelligence and reporting tools Part one | Part two | Part three
The right kind of tools can enhance any task, and that's especially true for public safety agencies using big data.
When law enforcement agencies and fire departments analyze vast amounts of data using intelligence and analytical reporting tools, actionable intelligence is generated. This intelligence helps command staff identify trends, allocate or reallocate resources and predict, prevent or reduce crime.
But to make use of data that can help create actionable intelligence, it's important to use an intelligence and analytical tool that stores data on a Microsoft SQL server.
The SQL server has the ability to analyze vast amounts of data and present information in a digestible manner. The server can instantly compile data into digital cubes so users can extract information from the data and present the material in an Excel spreadsheet or heat map.
For example, if command staff wanted to know where most accidents were occurring in town, the right intelligence and analytical reporting tool would be able to show where accidents occurred, when they occurred, the frequency in which they occurred, and the time of day that they occurred.
The right tool can also identify correlations in the data and present information to users that could have been otherwise overlooked. To do this, the data is shown on a heat map, providing a visual representation of the data queried.
However, that does not mean the tool will present an agency or department with what it needs to do to reduce incidents. Rather, it provides the actionable intelligence so public safety professionals can make decisions based on data.
With this information, resources can be reallocated so that accidents or crimes or whatever the issue at hand is can be reduced. This leads to safer communities and more lives saved.
Part one of a four-part series on intelligence and reporting toolsPart one | Part two | Part three
When public safety agencies have the ability to take big data and make it work for them, they're able to reduce crime and keep communities safer.
Consider this — a police department in an average-sized city might interact with thousands of people on a yearly basis. This interaction could be through responding to calls for service, making arrests, booking criminals into the county jail, taking reports, managing lost or stolen property, or handling pieces of evidence. All of these interactions generate data which is often times needed for future use, so that data gets stored or archived.
If this data is stored in a Microsoft SQL server database, it can easily be recalled later, and used by sworn officers and civilian staff. That means when analytical information is needed, which includes everything from names, numbers, addresses, case numbers and anything else that comes into the server, public safety personnel can extract that data and generate reports.
By using an intelligence and reporting tool to work with that data and generate reports, sworn officers and civilian staff are better able to identify trends or patterns that impact public safety. The tool can easily cut through large swaths of data and pinpoint what is needed by the civilian staff or sworn officer. The information then becomes digestible and easy to use.
Intelligence and reporting tools also help illustrate trends or patterns that may be occurring in a community. When these trends are highlighted by these tools, an agency's command staff is better able to allocate resources to specific areas, which helps to reduce crime and improve the safety of the community.
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There is a significant amount of work required behind-the-scenes in every emergency response, and it all starts with computer-aided dispatch (CAD).
When a call for service comes in to a 9-1-1 communication center, dispatchers immediately get to work sending a response. From there, first responders head out to provide assistance in whatever manner they are needed. But that doesn't mean the dispatchers' role in the response ends.
For instance, when officers respond to a call for service, they stay in contact with dispatchers at the communication center using their mobile data terminals (MDTs) located in their vehicles.
By staying in contact, dispatchers are able to route first responders to the scene and attach real-time updates about the call for service that first responders can see using their MDTs as they travel to the incident.
CAD systems with automatic vehicle location (AVL) functionality offer additional benefits as they provide dispatchers and first responders the ability to see where all first responders' vehicles are located on a digital map.
With AVL, a global positioning system (GPS) is set up on an agency's mobile server and configured so GPS data is sent to the mobile software located in an officer's vehicle. This signal is also sent to other units within the agency and to dispatch. To do this, AVL technology constantly sends latitude and longitude coordinates back to the CAD system so that the unit's location is always known by the agency's dispatchers.
AVL functionality helps dispatchers with routing as it helps direct patrol officers to the location of a call for service and provides continuous estimated time of arrival (ETA) data. By knowing where all first responders are on the map, CAD managers are able to help ensure communities have a robust level of patrol in all areas.
While the work of dispatchers happens outside of the public eye, they play a vital role in emergency responses and providing public safety to communities everywhere.
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