Back on November 26 we promised to look at the mix of technology used in a modern communications center. The need to manage this technology is one of the drivers for collaborative communications centers, since moving this technology under a unified center can save money and remove this headache from the collaborating governments.
The first challenge that public safety communications center technology presents is simply that it is hard to understand its complex mix of its components.
This chart shows how the major technology components in the communications center work together to support the receipt of calls and the processing of dispatches.
Specialized communications center telephone systems must manage incoming phone calls and also support both Enhanced 9-1-1 for traditional landline phones and also Wireless 9-1-1 to provide the location of calls from wireless phones.
Computer-aided dispatch (CAD) software manages the processing of incoming calls and their transformation into dispatches to responders in the field. CAD systems accept data related to the call, support the various protocols used by dispatchers, and maintain statistics on the handling of the call.
Police and fire department require records management systems (RMS) to support functions such as logging and managing incidents, and CAD systems must supply input to these systems.
Radio systems continue to be the primary method of communicating with public safety responders in the field.
But police and fire units in the field are increasingly also equipped with mobile computer units, and they can use these devices to access the CAD and RMS systems. For example, during busy periods it is very helpful for a police unit to be able to access the CAD system to view a list of backlogged dispatches that have been assigned to the unit.
Not only is public safety technology complex, but it is evolving and becoming more complex. The biggest evolutionary changes include these:
- Providing stronger ability to manage calls from wireless phones.
- Integration of geographic information system (GIS) abilities into the CAD processing.
- Integration of police and fire records management systems (RMS) into the CAD system and bringing the advantages of the use of common systems across neighboring departments. One advantage of sharing common RMS systems is sharing booking data.
- Better support for mobile devices used by police and fire units.
Smaller governments and communications centers may find themselves unable to keep current with all these technologies and their continued evolution. The best example may be the evolving technology required to locate callers using wireless (i.e., cell) phones.
Wireless calls now can account for 70% or more of calls at most centers and the proportion of calls coming from wireless phones will only continue to grow. Continuing to provide Wireless 9-1-1 technology as it evolves and especially as it moves to “Next Generation 9-1-1” including support for text messaging will be a special challenge.
In our next column, let’s look at the special challenge posed by the need for the communications center to support wireless calls. But until then, please comment and let us know if you have found it challenging in any way to keep up with these technologies and if so how you are coping with this.