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Orlando, Fla., Police, Fire on the Same Page When Responding

The new system replaces two CAD systems that were run separately by the Police and Fire departments. The system lets each share critical data and get 911 dispatch calls first-hand and in real time, unlike the previous set-up.

by Jim McKay / December 5, 2019
AP

Orlando, Fla., police and fire can now share 911 call information in real time and be dispatched to the same incident from one call. That wasn’t the case until this August, when the police and fire departments partnered with the IT department to procure a new CAD system.

Prior to the new system, each department had its own CAD system and had to call each other if both the Orlando Police and Orlando Fire departments were requested. The new system, purchased from Tyler Technologies for about $1.5 million, also allows for real-time communication between police and fire and gives dispatchers access to data critical to both departments. The system allows for text-to-911, something that was done through the county previously, and will include next-generation 911 features like video when the PSAP is ready for it.

“Any alert for Orlando PD can be seen by Orlando Fire; any alert for Orlando Fire can be seen by Orlando PD, as well as any comments added by the dispatcher or police or fire responders,” said Rosa Akhtarkhavari, Orlando chief information officer. “In the past, all of this was done manually between the two systems.”

The benefits of getting caller information in real time are two-fold: The agencies get first-hand information instead of having it relayed by the other agency’s dispatcher. It has reduced calls between agencies by about 100 a day. And, the agencies get the information more quickly.

“It’s not unusual for our officers to arrive on a call minutes or seconds before a suspect has left the scene,” said Orlando Police Chief Orlando Rolón. “Just improving our response times by seconds is a huge win.”

The information that is available to dispatchers also facilitates a quicker response and better situational awareness. For instance, the dispatcher can immediately find a Spanish-speaking deputy if one is needed and dispatch the closest one to the call. Or if a dive team is needed, the system will provide information on dive-team members.

“The new CAD captures who’s in each [fire] unit responding so we can technically request all divers and it would suggest which units have divers,” said Orlando Deputy Fire Chief Rich Wales. “It’s good situational awareness.”

Another example Wales provided was building inspections that the fire department does daily. They can learn about a building, such as if the second floor is missing, and alert SWAT if it’s called out to that building. “Sharing all that data between agencies will make a big difference for both agencies in the future,” Wales said, “whether it’s a floor missing or a dangerous criminal at a certain address that my responders need to be concerned about.”

That goes for the police department as well. Knowing that a dangerous person once lived behind the door the officer is knocking on is great information to have. “All those things we couldn’t do with the old system,” Rolón said. “This new system has really put us on a different playing field.”

Akhtarkhavari said this was the largest IT project the city has worked on and needed cooperation from all agencies involved. She said getting police and fire together to agree on the requirements, the vendor, implementation and going through the negotiations was a chore.

The police department had a top captain embedded with IT for more than a year and fire also had a representative working with IT. Each agency also had a dispatcher working with the IT department. Also, the city didn’t go with an RFP but an invitation to negotiate. That allowed for flexibility in the contract so that when next-generation 911 matures, the system can and will accommodate it.

“We negotiated everything with no compromises,” Akhtarkhavari said. “We wanted one system that works for all of us and will for at least 10 years.”
 
 

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