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
All crimes leave a trail of data in their wake. Software that can identify this trail helps everyone from dispatchers to officers on patrol to stay ahead of criminals. Trends, hot spots of criminal activity, even times of day or week can be identified using public safety software.
Personnel with the Everett Police Department, located in Snohomish County, Washington, understand this and that's why they're able to crack down on criminals more so now than in the past.
For instance, when officers run a plate or perform a routine traffic stop, they can bring up photos and warrants while out in the field using the mobile portion of their public safety software. This saves time, as it keeps them from having to contact the records department or dispatch.
According to Greg Lineberry, Captain of the Everett Police Department, having the ability to serve a warrant or look at booking photos with mobile software, provides immeasurable benefits to those working the field, in dispatch and in records.
"When our officers don't have to come into the police station to look up a warrant or view photos, it saves everyone time and helps us get criminals off the streets faster," Lineberry said.
In addition to saving time, the data that is stored and used in the Everett Police Department's system helps with improving data collection and tracking trends.
Lineberry said this helps the police department move toward using more intelligence-led policing efforts, which will help keep the community safer.
Recently, the Everett Police Department was able to crack down on vehicle thefts, identity thefts, and burglaries by using the data in their system.
Lineberry said this has also helped to cut down on the crime happening in areas of the city known for gang activity and drive-by shootings.
"There is an element out there that preys upon others, and we are committed to getting them off the streets and behind bars," Lineberry said.
Through the use of public safety software, the Everett Police Department is able to better protect and serve the community.
Read more: SNOPAC/SNOCOM Case Study
Photo courtesy of Everett Police Department
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.
On New Year's Eve in 2015, the Snohomish County Police Staff and Auxiliary Services Center (SNOPAC), a 9-1-1 Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), received a call regarding a mattress fire in an apartment complex.
According to Karl Christian, SNOPAC's Operations Support Specialist, this fire was of special concern due to the size of the apartment complex — 217 apartment homes in total — and the number of lives at stake. Unlike a structure fire at a home or smaller dwelling, this fire had the potential to be harder to control.
Within just five minutes of the initial call for service, the fire had already spread beyond the apartment with the burning mattress. Smoke could be seen billowing out of the second floor of the apartment complex.
One minute after the first string of responders had arrived — four minutes after being dispatched — the fire spread to a separate building. At 7:16 p.m., a mere seven minutes after the initial call for service, the fire emergency was advanced to a second alarm.
As more units were dispatched to the scene from multiple agencies across the county, the fire became more severe and difficult to contain and was moved to a third-alarm. At that time, more than 90 firefighters and emergency personnel had responded to the call.
By the time the blaze had reached third-alarm status, only 11 minutes had passed from the moment the call for service first came in to SNOPAC. With the help of the public safety software system used by both SNOPAC and SNOCOM rescue units from multiple fire districts and jurisdictions were able to be called to the scene. This response helped get the fire emergency under control, and prevented loss of life and additional injuries.
Seven apartments in the complex were affected by the fire, while 23 additional apartments in the complex were damaged by smoke and water. Fifteen residents required medical treatment both on the scene and at the local hospital. Volunteers with the Red Cross were on hand to help displaced residents.
To learn more about New World public safety solutions, read the SNOCOM/SNOPAC Case Study.
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