Dispatchers are one of the keys to public safety in the Carbon area.
The Carbon dispatch center has undergone a series of upgrades involving its equipment and systems during the past year. To date, most of the updates are complete, with new systems going online on Nov. 29, 2009. New advancements and capabilities have accompanied the changes.
"Our old system didn't even have a quarter of what we have now and we're probably not going to get more people, but we do have the equipment to help our dispatchers do their job better and more efficiently," said Margene Hansen, dispatch director.
As a whole, dispatch relies on a variety of programs and systems to remain operational. While the upgrade includes two such systems, the center now also has an impressive range of capabilities. The two new systems known as the Centennial Patriot 911 web-based system and Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) have been major steps in advancing technology for the center.
The state of Utah funded half of the CAD system cost, with the remaining amount provided from consolidation of cities and the county. With a total cost of around $156,000, CAD was installed in July 2009. Through utilizing this system, dispatchers have better access to records and phone numbers. They can also transfer calls faster and easier. In addition, the system can better handle future developments and relay calls.
"All agencies in the county are going to be on it, including Helper, Wellington and Price. It shows all open calls, officers on call and all patrol cars in real time," said Hansen.
An important advantage to the new system is its record keeping, because it can track call volumes and help the center determine how many people need to be on duty at a given time. In an average month, dispatch fields over 14,000 phone calls, including 7,000 outgoing calls and around 1,300 related to 911. With the new CAD system, the center can handle call volume more efficiently, with a more automated approach.
A second upgrade, the Centennial Patriot, is a $350,000 web-based system that allows dispatch to be more mobile, as well as to offer compatible service. This upgrade went online in Nov. 2009. Most of the initial funding came from a state 911 fund grant, with the county picking up the line, install and maintenance costs. New systems typically need to be upgraded or replaced in five-year cycles.
"Carbon County has been very progressive in making sure they have the resources to deal with emergencies," said Hansen. "So far, it's been an excellent system. We're still figuring it out. It's something that will work better with our normal and wireless calls which are the future."
Currently, the system is housed at the dispatch center, but plans are in place to split it into two parts and install half at the new county ambulance center. This, in effect, will create two dispatch centers, both online and ready for use should the main one go down, or also to keep normal dispatch going should a big emergency arise.
"We're going to be one of the first places in Utah to have such a system. It's expensive, but, if something did happen, we (now) have a back up," said Hansen.
With all the systems in use by dispatch (E-Force, Fat Pot, CAD and Centennial Patriot), each dispatcher has an impressive array of tools available to him. These include everything from maps to records, as well as quick contacts to various city and county agencies. One of the more advanced features is the mapping technology that allows dispatchers to not only track phone call locations by GPS, but also to monitor patrol cars in their real time locations.
Although not every agency is on the GPS, the system has the capability; it just depends on the agency and whether they are willing to fund GPS units. However, as far as phone calls, dispatch can pinpoint a cell phone call within 15 to 20 seconds. As Hansen indicated, it's important for callers to stay on the line for an accurate mapping.
Much of this technology might be new, but, in the future, Hansen said that she foresees more integrated systems as well as text message capabilities in terms of emergencies.
"Ten years down the road, everyone's going to have cell phones. In terms of 911, our next step is instant messaging. My main issue is informing people when and when not to call 911. It's only for emergencies," said Hansen.