Once the system went live, with a staggered start for each partner, the new dispatcher interface took some adjustment as well.

“Trying to coordinate training was time consuming,” Whetsel said. “Because it was a new deployment in Utah, we had to work closely with support technicians on the ground. We are still trying to muddle through the governance structure. We put together a panel of representatives from all the respective agencies, and we meet at least monthly and discuss what’s going on, direction, etc. We are working on formalizing the group, but it’s still in its infancy.”

Looking Forward

In addition to its other advantages, the IP capability of the Greater Wasatch Multi-Node Project has set the foundation for other next-gen 911 data services and applications, such as text-to-911.

“We are looking to have text messaging available by May 2014,” Scarlet said. “We’re working on establishing best practices for that now. Also when someone calls 911 now, there is a database that provides coordination between the phone number and the location of the caller. It is old school and requires a lot of manipulation. So we are beginning the process of converting from that old-school way of handling the auto number and auto location to a format that is more dynamic and uses geospatial data as opposed to a flat file.”

With the goal of being better prepared for next-generation 911 within two years, Utah is also working toward a CAD-to-CAD system that would allow for the electronic exchange of information between 911 operators. Utah also hopes to expand the backbone of the new 911 system throughout the state.

“There has been some discussion about applying this model throughout the state — to other regional or shared systems, so it’s given us some different options to explore,” Rose said. “We’d like to see if this model could work in other areas of the state and look at different options for the future that could save the state money and provide us more flexibility.”

Scarlet said she’s not sure how many other PSAPs in the state might emulate the Multi-Node Project. “In terms of how many others would do combined systems, that will be up to the PSAPs,” Scarlet said. “But I have heard that other PSAPs are talking about doing something similar. Anytime you can maximize your support and interoperability, it makes sense operationally and it makes sense for the citizens.”

While the project was the first of its kind in Utah, it could help set the stage for future initiatives.

“This was definitely something new to the state of Utah, but we got a lot of support for it from the surrounding areas,” Rose said. “Because it was so new we had to do quite a bit of educating to get buy-in. It was an eye-opener, and I think it will possibly influence other types of projects in the state down the road.”

This story was originally published by Emergency Management