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True stories from dispatchers, law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel who use New World public safety software to help them save lives, protect communities and increase efficiency

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Dana Rasmussen

Dana Rasmussen is a senior marketing communications specialist for Tyler Technologies. She began her career working with public safety officials as a reporter covering the police beat. She has written about the work of dispatchers, law enforcement officers, fire fighters and the communities they serve.

Top Stories of Winter 2017

From identifying bodies to capturing fugitives, the stories from The Call show the type of situations public safety personnel throughout the United States handle on a daily basis.

In the last four months, our most popular articles include:

Burglary Ring Busted by Law Enforcement

The Facts About Text-to-911

Police Keep Community Safe Using Mission-Critical Data

These articles highlight how public safety officials keep communities safe as well as the importance of keeping up with industry trends like Next Generation 911.

Have a story you would like to share with the call? Let us know!

The Role of Dispatchers Behind the Scenes

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.

Read more about the behind-the-scenes work in public safety agencies: Police and Dispatchers Work Together to Capture Criminals in Greenbelt, Maryland

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.

Increasing Efficiency with the Greenbelt Police Department

In the world of emergency situations, every second counts. That's why it is important for dispatchers to never have to worry about their computer aided dispatch (CAD) system going down.

Although rare, CAD systems can go down for a variety of reasons. One reason some are taken down deliberately is to update geographic information system (GIS) data imperative to routing.

Keeping GIS information current is a crucial component to maintaining faster and smarter response times. While there is a plethora of GIS data about a community that does not change, certain elements need to be updated from time to time, such as a new development being built, road closures and construction.

This updated information provides greater accuracy and helps dispatchers and first responders continuously provide a high-level of service to the community.

Some CAD software still requires going offline in order to update GIS data because their systems are unable to update in real time and stay online. It's Important to have a system that allows for the updating of GIS data without having to take that system down, as this lets dispatchers and first responders have constant access to data.

When a CAD system is taken offline, calls for service are still handled, but dispatchers are required to use radio communication. Deliberately taking a CAD system offline to update GIS data meant that calls for service suffer from not having important information available at all times.

Unique Tattoo Helps Law Enforcement Identify Body

When a body was found in the Kankakee River in the spring of 2016, public safety professionals worked quickly to identify the remains.

What was known about the body at the time of discovery was that it was a badly decomposed black male who had likely been in the water for up to 10 days. Fingerprint detection was impossible due to the decomposition, which meant public safety officials had to look elsewhere for information.

Using the approximate height, weight, age and race of the body, authorities searched through a national missing person's database in an attempt to identify the man, but found no matching results. National databases such as Forensic Filer and TLOxp Transunion are costly and can take months to generate leads.

However, a break in the case came when the county coroner discovered a rose tattoo on the body. This tattoo, which was located on the neck, was enough of a distinguishing characteristic that the Kankakee County Sheriff's Office would have it in their records and corrections system if the man had ever been in custody.

Trent Bukowski, IT Director for the Kankakee County Sheriff's Office, searched through his public safety software database to see if any records of previous inmates had a neck tattoo matching the description. Bukowski had a match within minutes.

Identifying Bodies Using Software

Using the scars, marks and tattoos module inside the corrections system, Bukowski generated a list of 68 current and former inmates who had neck tattoos. Based on the location of the tattoo on the unidentified man's body, the list of possible matches was brought down to eight. By examining the photos of these eight individuals with neck tattoos, investigators were able to match the unidentified man's tattoo to his booking photo found in the corrections system.

With the identity of the body known, the man's family was contacted and officials were able to close the case. Drowning was the official cause of death for the man found in the river, and drugs were also found in his system.

The Facts About Text-to-911

This article is part four of a six-part series on Next Generation 911
Part one | Part two | Part three | Part four | Part five | Part six

Text-to-911 is as simple as it sounds. It means that cell phone users can send and receive text messages to and from 9-1-1 call centers.

This concept generally calls to mind the image of someone hiding in a closet while texting 9-1-1 to say there is a burglar in the house. The reason this person is texting 9-1-1 instead of calling 9-1-1 highlights the need to communicate with emergency services even when speaking could be a problem.

Video: CAD Users Experience Text-to-911

Text-to-911 works the same way it does when individuals send text messages to and from one another.

From a technological standpoint, when an individual makes a text call to 9-1-1, the text caller sends a text message to emergency services. That text message is then routed by the person's phone provider (Verizon, Sprint, etc.) through a Text Control Center (TCC) to the appropriate public safety answering point (PSAP) in the area. Texts are received by a PSAP within six seconds.

Text-to-911 is a part of the National Emergency Number Association's Next Generation 9-1-1 initiative. This initiative is aimed at preparing PSAPs across the country with the technology capabilities to support the modern mixed media that smartphones and communication devices are capable of offering.

What Does Next Generation 911 Mean for my PSAP?

This article is part three of a six-part series on Next Generation 911
Part one | Part two | Part three | Part four | Part five | Part six

To determine what Next Generation 911 (NG 9-1-1) means for each public safety answering point (PSAP) is a bit complicated.

Currently, each PSAP in every community in every state is at a different level of readiness for NG 9-1-1. However, according to standards put into place regarding NG 9-1-1 by the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), every dispatcher and call taker is going to be expected to communicate with those in need of 9-1-1 emergency services in more ways than just by voice.

Video: CAD Users Experience Text-to-911

This change is similar to what it was like when technology moved away from rotary phones to push buttons phones to phones with no buttons at all. This is a change that reflects how communication has changed and how that impacts all parts of our lives.

Since the sending of text messages is something many if not most people do now, there is a growing conversation among people wondering if they can send a text to 9-1-1. These people also wonder why they can't send a photo message or a video message or a live stream of a crime happening to 9-1-1 now.

NG 9-1-1 makes it possible for everyone to send these types of messages to 9-1-1, and PSAPs will be able to receive these messages, it's just a matter of when.

As of October 2016, each PSAP in the country is working independently to become ready for NG 9-1-1.

PSAPs that are slightly ahead of the game are ready to accept text calls from the community, but this only accounts for approximately 15% of PSAPs nationwide.

Read part four of the series »

When Will Next Generation 911 Be Ready?

This article is part two of a six-part series on Next Generation 911
Part one | Part two | Part three | Part four | Part five | Part six

In the year 2020, public safety answering points (PSAPs) everywhere will finally get an answer to a burning question: When will Next Generation 911 (NG 9-1-1) services be ready?

2020 is the year when the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) is expected to determine a definitive date for each PSAP in the country to know what to do to be ready for NG 9-1-1 services.

The reason this initiative is such a lengthy undertaking is because NG 9-1-1 requires PSAPs to connect to new networks and install new digital 9-1-1 systems. NENA is also setting guidelines or standards so that PSAPs throughout the country will all follow similar protocols (however, each PSAP will have the ability to determine the manner in which they handle NG 9-1-1 messages).

While all standards and protocols are not yet in place, many PSAPs throughout the country are readying themselves in some fashion, especially in regards to text-to-911.

Text-to-911 is one of the first aspects of NG 9-1-1 that PSAPs are preparing to handle. It involves PSAPs implementing the capability of handling emergency text messages from the public. Later, PSAPs will be able to handle multi-media messages and live video streams from the public.

Video: CAD Users Experience Text-to-911

As of October 2016, the majority of states do report some level of readiness for NG 9-1-1, mostly in terms of handling text-to-911. However, that does not mean that all communities within these states have text-to-911 capabilities. In fact, fewer than 15% of PSAPs across the United States currently are able to accept text calls.

As time goes on, it is expected that more communities will be able to offer text-to-911 services and will then focus on the next phase of NG 9-1-1.

Read part three of this series »

What to Expect with Next Generation 911

This is part 1 of a 6-part series on Next Generation 911.
Part one | Part two | Part three | Part four | Part five | Part six

The manner by which the world communicates via phone has changed.

Recognizing this change, the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) developed Next Generation 911 (NG 9-1-1).

NG 9-1-1 is an initiative aimed at updating 9-1-1 emergency services to accommodate a growing wireless society and provide individuals with additional ways to reach out for emergency services. It allows for the public to communicate with 9-1-1 emergency services the same way most people communicate with each other today using text and multi-media messages on mobile phones.

In 2000, NENA first began to address the shift in how individuals communicate via phone and the need for the public to be able to talk to 9-1-1 emergency services in different ways. By 2003, NENA started to create standards for what NG 9-1-1 really meant.

The goal with NENA's initiative was to provide guidelines for public safety answering points (PSAPs), which would define requirements for PSAPs to follow. However, as of 2016, these requirements have not been fully defined.

Many PSAPs are preparing for NG 9-1-1 requirements by updating technology to enable the acceptance of voice, video, text and data sent over IP networks from various communication devices.

Communicating with 9-1-1 services using NG 9-1-1 technology will work the same way communication via smartphones does now for personal usage. However, instead of sending messages between friends, family, coworkers and the like, messages will be exchanged between the general public and emergency text call takers.

The goal of this technology is to make sure individuals can communicate with 9-1-1 services in a variety of ways. It is the goal of NENA to make sure public safety agencies have guidelines and standards to follow when adaptation of this technology becomes mandatory.

Read part two of this series »

Looking Back at The Call

From devastating fires to terrorist attacks to fugitives on the run, the content from The Call shows the dedication of public safety personnel throughout the United States.

These stories feature public safety officials from Snohomish County, Washington, Kankakee County, Illinois, and Greenbelt, Maryland. While each location is vastly different from the next, the common thread of serving the public is what is highlighted in each piece.

We are looking forward to sharing more public safety content in 2017!

Bogus 9-1-1 Call Leads to Change in Law

Heinous crimes often times result in changes to the law. In 2010, one of those crimes happened in Kankakee County, Illinois.

A call came in to 9-1-1 regarding five bodies in a trailer. The dispatcher who took the call sent two deputies to the scene. The deputies rode together and traveled at 102 mph down rural roads to the alleged trailer. But they never made it.

The vehicle the deputies were traveling in went off the road when its tire blew out and rolled five times. Deputy David Stukenborg's spine was shattered in the accident and rendered him paralyzed from the chest down. The other officer suffered non-life threatening injuries.

According to Trent Bukowski, IT manager for the Kankakee County Sheriff's Office, the woman who made the call did so to anger her ex-boyfriend. She knew there were no bodies in the trailer and that no crime had been committed, but wanted her ex-boyfriend to get into trouble.

When the accident involving the deputies was discovered along with the fact that the call was bogus, authorities reacted quickly to discover who made the call.

Unfortunately, the call was placed by a disposable cell phone and was not trackable by traditional methods. However, there was one location where that number was previously tracked: The corrections system used by the Kankakee County Sheriff's Office.

Bukowski said the number from the disposable cell phone was entered into the corrections system when the woman who made the call visited her ex-boyfriend in the county jail. This visit took place months before when the two individuals were still a couple.

"Since our records and corrections systems share data automatically, it makes it easier for us in multiple ways," Bukowski said. "If we hadn't entered that number into the system when this woman visited, we might not have ever found out who made that call."

After the deputy was paralyzed responding to the prank call, the Illinois General Assembly put a new law into effect Jan. 1, 2011. The new law states that a person found guilty of making a false 9-1-1 call will be charged with a Class 4 felony. This crime is punishable by one to three years in prison and carries a $25,000 fine.

This is a stark contrast to the previous law, which classified the same crime as a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and one year in jail. The woman who made the prank call that paralyzed the officer was fined and served 364 days in the county jail.