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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


Catching Up with The Call

When a massive winter storm dumped almost a foot of snow on York County, PA, dispatchers and first responders worked diligently to provide emergency services to residents of the county. Take a look back at this article and read how call takers and dispatchers working for the York County Dept. of Emergency Services used their computer aided dispatch software to prioritize calls and handle the heavy call volume.


Dispatchers Prioritize Responses in Winter Storm

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.


Dispatchers Prioritize Responses in Winter Storm

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."


CAD System Handles Massive Call Volume Amidst Freak Storm and Power Outage

The Pacific Northwest is no stranger to strong storms, but some can be more destructive than others.

For 9-1-1 dispatchers in Snohomish County, these storms have the potential to intensify call volumes – and that's exactly what happened in November 2015.

The storm generated winds as high as 119 mph, leaving more than 1 million individuals without power throughout the region. These winds caused significant structural damage to buildings and homes and also resulted in several downed trees. Three individuals in the greater Seattle area were killed as a result of falling trees.

Because of the damage to private residences and injuries this storm caused, numerous calls came in to the Snohomish County Police Staff and Auxiliary Server Center (SNOPAC) and the Southwest Snohomish County Communications Agency (SNOCOM), the county's two Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs).

As if the storm itself wasn't bad enough, both PSAPs lost power and ran solely on their generators throughout the duration of the storm.

According to SNOPAC's executive director Kurt Mills, SNOPAC nearly doubled its 911 call-takers during the storm to keep up with the calls coming into the center. In spite of the intense call volume, the system never faltered, which was a concern Mills had due to the fact that the PSAP had only been using its new computer aided dispatch (CAD) software for a few weeks at that point.

"The storm was massive," Mills said. "We are already a busy center processing around 1,300 calls every day, but during the storm we really pushed our new CAD system hard with a flood of calls and activity and it handled the workload without as much as a hiccup."

These storms helped illustrate just how far a solid CAD software solution and dedicated public safety staff will go to handle everyday emergencies and extreme situations.

"We're shaving seconds and sometimes minutes off of every mutual aid response, which often happen numerous times every single day, by not having to call our sister PSAP and ask for units," Mills said.

To learn more about the technology involved in this story, read the SNOCOM/SNOPAC Case Study.

Watch a video testimonial from SNOPAC's Rich McQuade



Dispatchers Use Cell Phone Coordinates to Get First Responders En Route Faster

Dispatchers at SNOCOM (Southwest Snohomish County Communications Agency) know that when it comes to emergency calls, time is of the essence. A call that came in early 2016 highlights this fact.

According to SNOCOM Operations Manager Andie Hanson, that early 2016 call was in regards to a man who was unresponsive. To provide help for this urgent situation, the dispatcher was able to use latitude and longitude coordinates generated from the cell phone the caller was using to get first responders on the road.

While these coordinates did not give the street address, it helped ensure a speedy response for the unresponsive man. Once the exact address was given, units were able to be there within three minutes of when the call came in.

"In situations that escalate so quickly, it's imperative that we have the ability to reach the citizens of our county as quickly as possible," Hanson said.

While SNOCOM always had the ability to dispatch first responders to emergencies, this process is more efficient now with the use of their new computer aided dispatch (CAD) software. This software helps dispatchers to communicate with agencies throughout the county regardless of jurisdictional lines.

Hanson said this borderless communication helps reduce the impact of call transfers, increases collaboration, and makes information sharing both immediate and easy. In addition, the easy access to data helps officers in the field to stay safer, as dispatch is able to provide them with real-time information regarding any call they respond to.

In regards to the comatose man, Hanson said that if SNOCOM had been using their old CAD system, help would have arrived later, and those minutes could have added up to a different outcome.

"The real-time information that we have now and the dynamic unit recommendation features of our CAD software helps us to not only protect the public, but to protect officers as well," Hanson said.

Watch a video testimonial from SNOPAC's Rich McQuade


Photo courtesy of Everett Police Department