When it comes to computer aided dispatching, reliability is key.
Take a look at these CAD stories and discover how dispatchers facilitated large call volumes and effectively managed patrol to keep communities safer.
When toxic gasses leaked from a food supply company, dispatchers knew first responders needed to be on the scene as quickly as possible.
From the moment the call for service came in, a chain of actions involving public safety personnel began.
Immediately, dispatchers entered the information into their computer aided dispatch (CAD) system and sent a response. Fire crews were on the road within minutes and arrived on the scene shortly after being dispatched.
While in transit, fire crews learned more about the incident they were responding to by reading call details on their mobile CAD terminals. This helped responders stay up to date with real-time updates from dispatch. The Fire Department was also able to access hazard alerts to learn about chemical amounts at the location and Pre-Plan documents created by the Salina Fire Department for this facility on their mobile CAD terminals
"When we found out there was an anhydrous ammonia leak, we let fire crews know exactly what they were responding to," lead dispatcher for the Salina Police Dept. Angela Fuller said. "This gas can be extremely dangerous, and it's our duty to keep first responders and the public safe."
Luckily, the leak happened early in the morning before rush hour, so fewer citizens were involved. However, that did not prevent dispatchers and first responders from implementing safety precautions, according to Fuller.
With the information already in CAD, dispatchers contacted the owners of the businesses and buildings impacted by the leak. They also set up perimeters to keep the public out of the area until it was determined to be safe again.
"In our CAD system, we have built-in information regarding each business address including who their keyholders are," Fuller said. "With that information, it streamlines communication efforts in emergency situations."
First responders cleared the scene after several hours once it was safe for the public to be in the area again
First responders know that situations can go from bad to worse in a split second.
When the FBI Fugitive Taskforce for Shawnee County in Kansas served a warrant to a known violent offender, the routine procedure quickly escalated into a gun battle.
The suspect in question was wanted for armed robbery and had a significant criminal record. Using intelligence gathered prior to serving the warrant, the fugitive taskforce tracked the individual to a motel in town late at night.
"As soon as the officer knocked on the door he was met with gunfire," according to training officer with the Topeka Fire Dept. Alan Stahl. "One officer was hit. The situation escalated from there."
Immediately, first responders on the scene called for assistance as the standoff continued. The officer who had been shot was treated on the scene when the fire and EMS crews arrived. Meanwhile, the suspect set fire to his hotel room, which resulted in more fire crews dispatched to the scene.
In most situations, law enforcement personnel secure a scene before fire and EMS crews arrive, but in this instance, protecting the lives of the other motel guests took precedence.
"Fire crews on the scene braved the gunfire and were able to contain the fire to the building it started in," Stahl said. "Luckily no one was injured."
Details regarding the situation, which involved a multi-agency and multi-discipline response, were communicated with dispatch from the moment officers were in transit to serve the warrant. Dispatch gathered all of the information, and data about the call for service was available for all responders. This information stayed together and helped first responders facilitate their response.
When the gunfire ended and the fire was extinguished, the suspect was dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and there were no further injuries to first responders or the public.
Data-driven intelligence goes a long way for first responders.
In Salina, KS dispatchers arm first responders with information that helps keep them safer on the scene of a call for service.
To do this, dispatchers have built-in capabilities in their computer aided dispatch (CAD) system that includes building contact information, known onsite hazards, entry points, notes about prior incidences with residents, and other details that could impact the safety of responders.
This information is especially useful when a call for service comes in regarding someone with any sort of medical condition, according to lead dispatcher Angela Fuller with the Salina Police Department.
In one instance, this medical information was used when first responders were headed to an incident involving a residence with numerous disabled residents.
"When we know in advance that there is a situation involving someone with any type of disability, we can let first responders know what they might be dealing with," Fuller said. "This is especially useful in case of a fire emergency so our fire crews know that there could be individuals inside who are unable to evacuate."
First responders view this information on their mobile data terminals, which help them see vital CAD information in real time. With the ability to relay details about a call for service on a mobile device, another layer of privacy is extended to those in need. This is especially beneficial for any call involving sexual assaults and protected medical information.
While medical information is always private and separate radio channels are used for relaying information from dispatch to first responders, mobile CAD provides this same information in real time.
"Without mobile CAD capabilities, first responders would need to call in to dispatch to receive certain information surrounding patient's privacy," Fuller said. "Mobile CAD allows us to keep this private information secure, while also allowing first responders to access the pertinent data immediately."
From traffic citations to hurricanes to burglary rings, public safety personnel are always ready to provide help when it’s needed most.
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In the world of public safety, dispatchers play a pivotal role in emergency responses. Severe weather, fire emergencies, and criminal acts all require first responders to get on the scene as quickly and safely as possible. To get them there, dispatchers need computer aided dispatch (CAD) tools.
Explore these feature stories to read about how agencies from across the United States help create safer communities when responding to calls for service.
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Dispatchers deal with life and death situations every day on the job. They're used to the pressure that comes with an intense call for service and being relied on to send the appropriate response to an emergency. That's why it takes quite a bit to get a dispatcher to refer to one particular day as worse than any of the others.
But according to Denise McKinney, Chief of Communications for the Ouachita Parish Fire Department in Louisiana, there's one day that stands out to her as the worst in her history on the job.
When Ouachita Parish including the cities of West Monroe and Monroe was hit by an EF2 tornado in December 2013, long after tornado season had ended, first responders worked diligently to aid those in need. According to the Enhanced Fujita scale, which is used to rank the severity of tornadoes, an EF2 indicates a storm with wind speeds of up to 135 mph.
"The storm started in the southwest end of the parish and continued to move throughout the community," McKinney said. "We were getting a lot of calls, but no one was using the word 'tornado' in the calls. What we were hearing was that there was a lot of wind and a lot of trees were coming down."
As the storm continued to move through the area, Ouachita Parish 911 received an onslaught of calls from residents who were trapped in their homes or unable to get home due to trees in the roadways. In addition, lightning from the storm caused many house fires, and rescuers needed clear pathways to get to those in need.
"The storm really tore up the area," McKinney said. "We had a lot of off-duty firemen come out with their chainsaws to clear pathways on the roadways so residents and emergency vehicles could get around. We were also getting calls from our public works personnel who let us know which roads had been closed, which was beneficial as it allowed us to enter that information into our computer aided dispatch (CAD) system."
By entering this information into CAD, dispatchers created roadblocks on CAD maps, which helped ensure all first responders avoided certain areas that were impassable.
"Every entry into our CAD system map was globally applied so that all users could see the changes in their mobile units within their patrol or rescue vehicles," McKinney said. "Being able to see those changes immediately enabled us to get help to where it was needed most despite the amount of debris on the roads."
In the weeks leading up to the 2017 hurricane season, Chief Darrell Bush of the Nederland Police Department and Chief Paul Lemoine of the Port Neches Police Department participated in one storm preparation meeting after another, but none of it could have prepared them for what would happen once Hurricane Harvey made landfall in late August.
In just five days, the City of Nederland, Texas broke national records after 64.58 inches of rain drenched the community — 31.38 inches of which came down in a single day. Port Neches, Texas wasn't too far behind, receiving 64.51 inches of rainfall during the same time frame.
The year prior, Texas led the country in flooding-related fatalities. In 2016, flash and river floods claimed 126 lives around the country and 38 in Texas. Nearly half of the victims were killed in a vehicle, likely trying to cross a flooded road.
However, tragedy was avoided in Nederland and Port Neches during Hurricane Harvey.
Wading through shoulder-deep water and working for hours on end, officers made every effort to help those in need.
"I was in the field the whole time. It was all hands-on deck," Lemoine said.
When the rain stopped, the sun finally reappeared, and the flooding started to recede, the two police departments had made a combined total of more than 180 rescues. No lives were lost due to flooding in Nederland or Port Neches and no officer was injured in the field.
Every year, the Great Plains region of the US experiences severe thunderstorms throughout the summer months.
The summer of 2017 was no different for Independence, Missouri.
In mid-July, heavy storms hit this Kansas City metro area town causing damage to vehicles, homes, and businesses. High winds of more than 85 mph also caused downed trees and power lines, which led to power outages for several residents.
In addition, the rain and hail accompanying these storms resulted in flash flooding as it dumped more than three inches onto the town. Numerous roadways were impassable due to the trees and flooding, which caused routing issues for motorists and first responders.
In this type of situation, dispatchers and first responders are tasked with routing emergency personnel to those in need, which can be difficult when roads are impassable.
During that storm, the local 9-1-1 dispatch center in Independence fielded such a high call volume that they were running a modified response on emergency calls.
According to Independence Fire Dept. Battalion Chief Cindy Culp, a modified response helps ensure an effective level of coverage continues throughout the community despite emergency conditions that could absorb numerous resources.
"Any time the big storms hit, we're out there with police responding to weather-related calls for service and your every-day emergencies," Culp said. "It's important for dispatch to make sure there's enough coverage throughout the city to account for any emergency situation that arises as well as for of the events attributed to weather activity."
While the modified response prevented the city from running out of first responders to meet the needs of the community, first responders also had to deal with how to get to those in need.
"We had to be re-routed to several calls for service due to the condition of the roads," Culp said. "Dispatch helped with routing us to these incidents so that we could get help to where it was needed most."
Like many emergency responses, communication with other agencies and departments played a large role in effectively meeting the needs of the community during the storm.
According to Joanna Whitt, Records Administrator for the Independence Police Dept., the police and fire departments work together quite often in emergencies.
"In critical situations, we work closely with the fire department," Whitt said. "Anytime the police and fire departments are on the scene together, we share information with each other that pertains to safety for first responders and the public."
When a medical emergency happens in the middle of the woods, it's beneficial for the individual and first responders involved to have navigation tools that can get help to where it's needed most.
According to Denise McKinney, Chief of Communications with Ouachita Parish Fire Department in Louisiana, there are some calls where solid mapping capabilities in the communication center's computer aided dispatch (CAD) system are vital.
"Getting first responders to the scene of a crime or medical emergency is always a priority," McKinney said. "We know that speed is of the essence and dispatchers really work hard to send the right response."
When a call came in regarding an elderly man having chest pains in the woods, the dispatcher who took the call knew that the situation could become fatal without an immediate response.
According to McKinney, the man was with his son and they were more than two miles off the road in the woods where they were duck hunting. Using cell phone location coordinates, the dispatcher was able to identify where the call was coming from and send a response.
"When the call came in, we were able to locate the individuals and identify which section of the woods they were in," McKinney said.
With the cellphone coordinates providing a location and the verbal instructions from the 911 caller, dispatchers used satellite views of the CAD maps to view the first responders en route to the scene. This view helped with navigation so that first responders would get to the precise location where help was needed. Within 20 minutes, first responders were on scene providing help to the elderly man.
"We had the tools necessary to show us where this man was located and we got there quickly," McKinney said. "Thankfully, we have the technological capabilities to get help to where it's needed most as quickly as possible. Without this CAD system, that response would have taken much longer."
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