Santa Cruz 911 Rolls Out Updated System and Mobile Terminals

Motorola PremierOne adds several nuances to previous system for responders.

by Jim McKay / May 3, 2018

Santa Cruz 911 Rolls Out Updated System and Mobile Terminals
Motorola PremierOne adds several nuances to previous system for responders.

On the rollout day of the new communication system, Dennis Kidd got a call from a mother whose daughter was suicidal. The two were along a beach in Santa Cruz, Calif., and the daughter was heading toward a cliff. Kidd, via the new mapping feature on the updated system, assured the mother that a police cruiser was but two blocks away. 

That kind of detail wouldn’t have been possible with the old system and it’s but one the improvements for the Santa Cruz Regional 911, which serves six law enforcement agencies; 11 fire departments; and two ambulance companies within four-member agencies — Santa Cruz County, and the cities of Santa Cruz, Capitola and Watsonville.

Kidd, Santa Cruz Regional 911 general manager, said that prior to the upgrade, they would have only been able to tell the mother that police would get there as soon as they could. “From all kinds of perspectives, knowing the real-time locations of police officers is extremely helpful, not only for their safety but so we can help direct them to where they need to be,” he said.

And that goes for fire and EMS as well, some of which got mobile data terminals for the first time with the upgraded system.

Kidd said that a few years ago, Motorola informed them that their current CAD system, a Motorola Premier system, was nearing the end of its life. That prompted a search for another system, which ended in a Motorola upgrade to Motorola PremierOne, which included the new mobile data terminals that every response vehicle now has.

“Previously we had our CAD system, but there were three different mobile systems out there in the field we were trying to connect to,” Kidd said. “Now it’s seamless, everybody has access and there is a license for every vehicle.

It was about a two-year project that cost $180,00 a year for a decade and offers a number of improvements.

One is that the system is constantly updating. With the old system, the last piece of data sent would remain until someone sent new data. Now the system refreshes on its own to reflect any new data being transmitted.

There is also a way to flag an important detail. For instance, if there’s a call about a fight and a mention of a gun, that mention of the gun would be broadcast in red.
Also, a police officer can initiate or create his or her own call in the field by providing an address or latitude and longitude, in which case the system will come up with the nearest address.

An officer can also answer a low-priority call without getting on the radio, which cuts down traffic.
The system was rolled out on April 18, along with some intensive training for dispatchers and for responders. Some of the training started eight months ago and included YouTube videos. Each dispatcher had 21 hours (fire dispatchers had 28 hours) of instruction on the new system before it was deployed.

During the first three days after rollout, there was a coordinated effort to funnel any problems that may turn into issues toward a single source. “The issues were categorized, and that made the process of identifying errors easy because you didn’t have four people reporting to four more people and describing it in four different ways,” Kidd said.

After having used the system for a few months, each responder will get special instruction on how to better use it. “We’re going out to every law enforcement roll call and every responder to give them some tier-two training on their mobile,” Kidd said. “There are habits you develop, but we’ll show them things to make it easier.”