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 »
There are a few ways to dispatch emergency services when a call for service comes in to a call center.
Without computer aided dispatch (CAD) software, dispatchers send transmissions via radio to first responders. These first responders use pen and paper to record the information or commit the details to memory. To get to the scene, they might use their own mobile phone’s routing features, or rely on their own knowledge of the area.
Then there are dispatchers who utilize CAD software and send a response, but are unaware of the unit’s estimated time of arrival (ETA). Once the unit is dispatched to a call for service, dispatchers calculate the ETA based on the unit’s location, speed and route.
What dispatchers and law enforcement officers have learned is that a much more efficient way to get to the scene is through proximity dispatching. With this method, dispatchers see where police, fire and EMS units are on a digital map in CAD software in real-time along with their continuously adjusting ETAs.
The continuously updated ETAs that proximity dispatching relies on are provided through the use of automatic vehicle location (AVL) functionality. This provides the most accurate information possible, so that dispatchers and first responders can see where all units are by looking at their digital maps either in the CAD mapping system or mobile data terminals in patrol cars, fire engines, or other emergency vehicles. Using this information, dispatchers determine which unit should be dispatched to ensure the quickest response.
AVL works by having each emergency vehicle equipped with global positioning system (GPS) functionality. By pre-programming GPS data into an agency’s mobile server, the mobile software located in police, fire and EMS vehicles communicates seamlessly back and forth to dispatch.
This same signal is sent to other units within the agency, all of which are able to view this information using the maps on their mobile devices.
AVL technology continuously sends latitude and longitude coordinates back to the CAD system so that dispatchers always know the location of a unit.
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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.
Increasing patrol in areas of high crime is nothing new for most jurisdictions.
According to CAD Manager Mike Dewey of the Greenbelt Police Department, patrolling crime hotspots is a priority. Ensuring other areas of the city are also covered efficiently is something they do as well through the use of their mapping software.
Dewey said he monitors patrol patterns in real time, which helps to identify areas of high saturation. High saturation can indicate areas known for higher crime rates, which leads to an increase of patrol. It can also show where several police cars are following a response to a call for service.
Being able to identify these areas empowers everyone from supervisors to dispatchers to officers in the field to see where each police unit is located.
From there, officers have the ability to move from areas of high saturation to areas of lighter coverage. This maximizes the police department's coverage of the entire city and provides effective coverage for a community.
"Using the software to watch where officers have been recently allows the shift to function as more of a coordinated unit," Dewey said. "Without this ability, it is much more likely that areas in the community would inadvertently get less efficient coverage."
The mapping capabilities of Greenbelt's public safety software also aids in faster response times. For instance, when a call comes in to the dispatch center but has not yet been assigned, officers in the field can see that the call has been queued up and can start driving in the direction where there is a need for service.
In taking this proactive measure, officers are en route faster and arrive on the scene quicker once the address is provided or units are assigned.
"The capabilities of our software system definitely result in faster response times," Dewey said.
Eliminating fighting in a correctional facility is nearly impossible, but there are ways it can be reduced.
The Jerome Combs Detention Facility in Kankakee, Illinois is no stranger to inmate fights. However, corrections officers working at this facility utilize their corrections software to help reduce the number of fights on the grounds.
According to corrections officer Justin LeSage, this software helps to make sure that certain inmates are never housed together.
"We get inmates in here who are purposely looking to start a fight with other inmates," LeSage said. "It can be retribution or retaliation or at random. But with our corrections software, we are able to make sure that inmates with known associates or affiliations are not given the opportunity to get into trouble with another inmate."
LeSage said he faced one incident where an inmate in the Jerome Combs Detention Facility was awaiting sentencing for the murder of a woman.
The murdered woman's boyfriend committed a crime and declined to post bond so that he could enter the jail to kill his girlfriend's killer. Once brought to the detention facility, the man wanted to be housed in the same area as his girlfriend's killer.
What the man didn't know was that the corrections software classification and records keeping system prevented that from happening because his known associates were already listed.
"If we didn't have this software and inmates were housed together when they shouldn't be, who knows what could happen," LeSage said.
With this information, jail managers and corrections officers are able to manage jail populations, track inmates and prevent incidences from occurring.
Watch Sheriff Michael Downey discuss how the Kankakee County Sheriff's Office used software to identify a body.
When a 9-1-1 hang up call comes into a dispatch center, call takers immediately call back to determine whether help is needed or not. But when dispatchers call back and don't get an answer, they know there could be a problem.
When dispatch personnel with the Greenbelt Police Department received a 9-1-1 hang up call in early 2016, they immediately called back and were connected to a fax machine.
Dispatch searched the number in their computer aided dispatch (CAD) system and was able to come up with an address associated with the number so that an officer could head out to the location. The first officer routed to the location quickly investigated the situation and individual on the scene.
According to CAD Manager Mike Dewey of the Greenbelt Police Department, that officer on the scene immediately identified that the individual at the apartment was possibly undergoing some kind of mental health issue or under the influence of drugs.
While on the scene, the officer accessed premise history through his mobile data terminal in his patrol car and was able to see that a known Phencyclidine (PCP) user lived on the premises.
"PCP is a hallucinogenic drug that has a tendency to cause violent outbursts," Dewey said. "PCP can be an extremely dangerous addition to any call for service, and in this scenario, the lone officer was able to back out of the environment and call for sufficient additional resources."
According to Dewey, without the data sharing between the records and mobile solutions in the police department's public safety software to provide instant prior history information, this situation could have been dangerous for the officer and the individual who made the 9-1-1 call.
Instead, additional units responded to help the officer, which ensured there was no injury to the officers or the individual under the influence of drugs.
"Without enough officers to effectively handle the scene, you risk injury to everyone involved," Dewey said. "Our software helps us prevent these situations from happening."
When cutbacks in 2015 resulted in a reduction of officers on patrol throughout Kankakee County, the county experienced a rash of burglaries.
For three weeks, burglars ransacked homes in search of guns, jewelry, electronics, cash and anything else of value.
"It got to the point where you were either a victim of the burglaries, neighbors with someone who had been a victim or afraid of becoming a victim," according to Becky Powell, Investigation's Officer Manager for the Kankakee County Sheriff's Office.
The burglaries took place in Kankakee's neighboring counties as well, and all information from those incidences were entered into Kankakee's records system.
This collection of shared data along with tips that were called in helped generate documents in the records system so that law enforcement officials and other individuals involved in solving the case had instant, accessible information.
"The criminals involved in the burglaries knew that we had a reduction in force," Trent Bukowski, IT Director for the Kankakee County Sheriff's Office said. "They took advantage of the lighter patrol that was going on throughout the county."
A break in the case came when the burglars were caught on a security camera stealing from a Walmart store in Kankakee. The surveillance footage provided a description of the offenders and the two vehicles they were driving.
What was especially notable about this footage was that one of the burglars was seen wearing a Chicago Bulls t-shirt in the video. This helped investigators tie the individual to a residential burglary that took place later in which that same shirt was found at the scene.
These descriptions were entered into Kankakee's records system and alerts were put out so that all officers in the county and surrounding areas knew what the suspects looked like and what cars they were driving.
Once officers were aware of this vital intelligence, they arrested the individuals as they left the scene of a burglary. The individuals were caught with items stolen from houses and items with tags on them from Walmart, which were purchased with stolen credit cards.
With the information sharing and data integration capabilities of the Kankakee County Sheriff's Office's computer aided dispatch, records, mobile, field reporting and corrections public safety software solutions, these criminals were able to be brought to justice.
In the spring of 2016, officers from the Greenbelt Police Department responded to a call citing shots fired in an apartment complex.
According to Sergeant Tim White, the initial information only included the fact that there was a man with a gun and he had fired shots from his balcony. When the address of the shooting was provided, officers were able to quickly identify more information about the situation by accessing premise history information in their records management system via their mobile data terminals.
White said this premise history information helped officers know they were responding to a situation involving a man with mental health issues.
"We were able to tell immediately what situations we'd had at the location previously, who the individual was, what he looked like, and who his closest relatives were," White said. "Our system helps us piece together a lot of this information, which ultimately helps us to resolve situations."
By identifying the shooter, they were able to isolate the individual apartment where the shooter was located within the complex and evacuate other residents quickly and safely.
Sergeant Tim White Discusses Shooting
White explained that if information sharing regarding the premises and the occupant had not been available in their public safety software, the situation could have been much worse.
"Without our public safety software, all of the information we knew going into this situation would have come after the fact," White said. "We would have to piece everything together, and in a dynamic scenario such as this, that can take a long time."
Discovering what makes someone become a mass murderer is something the science community has yet to identify. Many of these individuals share similar characteristics, but what makes someone actually commit these acts is hard to define.
Some of those characteristics include a feeling of rejection or an abusive past. Others include setting fires while young or hurting animals. Then there are some that always exhibited a lack of empathy or self-centeredness. But not everyone who experiences these traits or experiences becomes a killer.
Triggering events can sometimes be tied to those who enact a mass shooting. A workplace shooting can occur after an individual has been fired; a shooting in the household could be the result of a breakup.
Mass shootings are generally carried out by one individual. Incidences that involve two or more shooters leave even more questions about the reasons behind the shooting to be answered.
In the attack on the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino in late 2015, nobody really knows what caused two individuals to kill 14 others.
What authorities do know is that the two shooters were a married couple. Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik had left their baby in the care of a grandparent on the day of the attack. Farook was a U.S. citizen and Malik was a permanent resident. They met online initially, and eventually met face to face in Saudi Arabia when Farook came out for a visit.
Farook was a graduate of California State University and worked for the Inland Regional Center.
Together, the couple owned a Lexus, had recently attended a baby shower that coworkers had thrown for them, and seemed like an everyday family.
It is thought that Farook became self-radicalized and professed allegiance to the terrorist organization ISIS. It's unclear if the two shared ideological beliefs independently from each other, or if their ideologies grew once they got together.
While it's difficult to know what drove Farook and Malik to kill 14 individuals, it's important to know how they were identified and stopped.
According to Chief Jarrod Burguan of the San Bernardino Police Department, during the investigation that began as soon as law enforcement arrived on the scene, a witness to the shooting suggested that officers consider Farook as a suspect.
This tip was made based on the fact that Farook had been attending the training, but left at some point during and was no longer around. Farook's information was entered into the public safety records management software system utilized by the San Bernardino PD and officers were able to determine his address.
Another tip came in saying that the shooters had gotten away in a black SUV. When this information was made available to the public, a community member called 9-1-1 to report a suspicious SUV. That caller had gone so far as to memorize the license plate number of the SUV.
Investigators with the San Bernardino PD were able to use their public safety software yet again to look up this plate. From there, they determined that the SUV was a rental vehicle and that Farook had rented it.
When Farook and Malik were located not long afterwards, they were killed by police during a shootout.
This tragic incident serves as further evidence that although clues are not always prevalent before an attack, solving crimes and protecting the public is possible with a combination of data, technology and human instinct.
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