Source: Charleston Gazette-MailBy Giuseppe Sabella
A Kanawha County sheriff’s deputy used three letters to describe her dangerous foot pursuit: AVL.
The automatic vehicle locator tracks first responders from more than 50 agencies throughout the county, and it may have saved Cpl. Stephanie Adams’ life.
Metro 911 officials said the upgrade launched in September and has since helped law enforcement, paramedics, firefighters and county residents.
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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."
First responders know the area that they serve well, but that doesn't always guarantee a fast response.
With Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) functionality, dispatchers can route first responders to incidences using proximity dispatch capabilities. Proximity dispatch assesses real-time routing factors to get first responders on the scene quickly and safely, regardless of their location.
With AVL technology in Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) software, public safety telecommunicators and first responders are able to know the location of their units via CAD workstations and Mobile Data Terminals (MDT).
For dispatchers, this technology helps to make dynamic unit recommendations based on real-time situational awareness and routing factors. Without AVL, dispatchers can only send first responders to an incident based on either the agency they are assigned to or last recorded location. While this is effective, it's not as efficient.
With AVL, when a call is ready to be dispatched to first responders in the field, the dispatcher has the ability to look at the CAD map and see where all units are located at any given time. Dispatchers can use this information to help determine which units should respond to an incident faster and more safely.
This means that while one first responder may be closer to the location where an incident is occurring, another unit could be able to arrive faster due to routing factors such as traffic speeds or construction.
Using their maps displayed on their MDTs, first responders in the field use AVL to know where other units are located. In a situation where multiple units are responding to an incident, having the ability to see real-time ETAs helps first responders know when back up will arrive.
AVL functionality also helps in the event of an emergency involving a first responder. Should a first responder lose the ability to communicate with dispatch via radio, dispatchers can quickly locate and send assistance to AVL enabled units.
Without this functionality, should something happen to a first responder while out in the field, a search would be carried out using maps and grids. This would take a considerable amount of time and could mean the difference between life and death.
In addition to providing accurate location information, AVL provides users the option to track a unit's speed and direction at any given time.
With AVL technology, built into public safety software, agencies are able to respond as quickly as possible and are better able to protect and serve their communities.
Communication plays a vital role in public safety. When dispatchers are unable to communicate with a deputy on patrol, they know immediately that something is wrong.
According to Sergeant Jonathan Emery of the Greene County Sheriff's Office in Ohio, dispatchers with the county had an incident in late 2015 featuring a deputy who could not communicate.
These dispatchers were unsure of what had happened to him; all they knew was that he was not able to respond to their attempts at communicating with them. Because of this lack of communication, dispatchers needed to send help to the officer, but first they had to find his vehicle.
The fact that the deputy could not communicate using the radio on his shoulder or in the patrol vehicle was evidence enough that something was wrong. Luckily, the deputy was able to activate the emergency button feature of his Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) functionality that was a part of his mobile computer aided dispatching (CAD) software.
This button pinpointed his location so that dispatchers at the Greene County 9-1-1 Center were able to send help immediately.
When this help arrived, they saw that the deputy had been involved in a collision and was injured. The deputy had no memory of how the collision occurred, but was grateful for the ability to communicate nonverbally.
Because the vehicle had gone off the road, it is possible that it would not have been seen easily by passing motorists. This could have made the situation even more dangerous as more time means the injured wait longer for help.
Without the AVL functionality in the deputy's CAD system, this situation could have ended in tragedy.
A lot can change in less than a minute.
For an officer with the El Cajon Police Department, there was a lot riding on that small unit of time.
The officer had radioed in to dispatch and all he could say was that he had been hit. The call taker had no way of knowing if that meant he had been involved in a collision or shot.
Sue said in less than a minute, the call taker had identified the officer's location using the Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) functionality of their Computer Aided Dispatch software. With this information, dispatchers were able to send a rescue response to the officer.
What they discovered upon arrival was that the officer had been involved in a collision. While stopped at a traffic light, the officer's vehicle was rear-ended by another vehicle traveling at 35 mph.
The officer suffered a broken neck, but had made a full recovery. The driver of the other vehicle was uninjured.
"This case serves as a prime example of how great the software is," Sue said. "We were able to get to his location even when he was unable to speak. AVL is a life-saving tool."
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