At Prince George’s County Public Safety Communications, we know that trust is the most important factor. Public-safety personnel must trust each other and trust that their communications and information systems are state-of-the-art. Only then will citizens who rely on us be able to trust that we can help keep them safe.
Trust The People
Prince George’s County, VA, stretches from the Potomac River west and south for almost 500 square miles. It comprises 18 municipal jurisdictions and more than 900,000 people.
Keeping the county’s citizenry safe and well-informed is the mission of the Prince George’s County Public Safety Communications office. We handle some 1.8 million calls a year, supporting police, fire, EMS, the Sheriff’s Office and 18 municipal jurisdictions within the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metro area.
Our work must be based on trust. Each of these agencies must be confident that we've provided all the vital information they need to do their jobs when they get on the scene. We know that we must obtain critical information that will guide first responders.
At the same time, as the first point of contact for callers, we realize that callers often need support and comfort as they wait for help to arrive. In fact, sometimes it's our telecommunicators themselves who provide life-saving help, for example, instructing them in first aid techniques or CPR.
Trust The Technology
In order to provide this level of support to so many citizens and public agencies, we have to be sure that we can access accurate information as quickly as possible. In 2011, the county opened a new facility that is state-of-the-art and ready for next-generation 9-1-1. In 2015, we opened the Prince George’s County Emergency Operations Center. This one-of-a-kind facility was designed to provide the highest level of service to all of the public safety and public service agencies in the county. It also serves as Homeland Security headquarters and the 9-1-1 dispatch backup center.
Because we take calls for so many different entities in the county, integration is extremely important. While computer-aided dispatch is the core of all public safety, there are many other areas where our records management system must interoperate with those of other agencies.
We have a valuable technology partner to help ensure that all our communications, dispatch and records management connect seamlessly.
Trust Each Other
Technology is half of the equation. The other half is our staff that includes 34 positions in the primary PSAP. When citizens call the 9-1-1 center, they can be sure that the people they’re talking to have been trained to the highest standards – and, even more important – that they are committed to providing every kind of help they need.
We're proud that our Emergency Operations Center is one of only six in the world that have received a Triple Accredited Center of Excellence (Tri-ACE) rating from the National Academy of Emergency Dispatch. That means that we can be proud that we're providing our agencies and the public with the very highest level of service.
Any time I feel stressed, all I have to do is walk through the 9-1-1 center and the dispatch area, and I remember why we do this: because our community relies on us.
We are much more than just a voice behind the call. Learn more about us and our center.
Charlynn Flaherty is Associate Director of Public Safety Communications.
This blog is the second in the “Walk in Your Shoes” series. lt highlights our commitment to building experience focused software applications to support the important job of protecting citizens of this great nation. Read the first blog Walk in Your Shoes – The Foundation of Customer-Focused Software Applications.
Creating Police Mobility Applications
Getting out of a car and following a police officer through his daily routine. Asking probing questions about what would make their job easier. Spending time with an officer and doing side-by-side comparisons of different products and applications. That’s all part of my research role; requiring me to “Walk in Your Shoes” for an hour, an afternoon or an entire shift. The results of my field interviews are new applications and product enhancements that make an officer’s job easier.
One of the big pain points officers have identified is the desire to have more flexibility in choosing a smartphone device. They want to be able to run law enforcement applications on either an iOS or Android® handheld device. That input has been heard loud and clear by our design teams, so the latest release of the our handheld mobile application can now operate on either iOS or Android devices. This gives agencies, regardless of the device, real-time access to CAD incidents, location of responding officers, vehicle and person queries, unit status, geofence alerts, driving directions and more.
The other big request I hear is: “I want to do everything on my smartphone that I can do on a laptop. I want full mobility away from the vehicle.” In addition to getting information about an incident, or the location of responding officers I talk to want to be able to issue citations and do field reports when on the scene, while away from my vehicle. And they want to seamlessly share the information between smart phones, in-vehicle computers and the command center. To provide them that capability we are now offering Citations and Forms, a highly configurable, complement to the handheld platform. Now, it is easy to issue a ticket, document with photos, close out an incident, complete a field interview form, get signatures, and even print; all from a smartphone or tablet using the iOS or Android platform. And the information gathered on a handheld device, is available on in-vehicle solution as well, allowing reports to be started on the scene and completed in the vehicle where a full keyboard is available for additional annotations and narratives.
It is exciting to convert what I learn from riding and/or walking along side law enforcement into product offerings. Introducing applications and functionality into the marketplace that are the direct result of officer inputs is rewarding both for me and for our customers.
Receiving inputs from first responders never gets old. If you are going to be at APCO 2017, please stop by the Motorola Solutions Booth #801, try out our newest applications and share your thoughts. My colleagues and I would love to hear your opinion about our handheld products so we can continue to offer enhanced customer focused applications.
Julie Folden is Mobility Product Manager at Motorola Solutions. Her job is to understand and document the daily activities of police, fire, and EMS personnel to help design and create the best public safety mobile and handheld applications for both today and tomorrow. She takes her job seriously having completed over 500 public safety experiential visits over the past 15 years.
NG9-1-1 ALLOWS US TO PROVIDE HIGH-PERFORMANCE SERVICE
Gloucester County is big, diverse and thriving. We’re a tight-knit community that’s large enough to leverage national and state resources, and yet small enough so that residents never feel that our services are impersonal. They know they can rely on county personnel to provide individual help whenever they need it.
Emergency services, delivered through the Gloucester County Emergency Response Center, are a perfect example of this. By collaborating with all 24 of our municipalities on 9-1-1 dispatch and emergency management, we can deliver the necessary response quickly and effectively. We’ve reduced the time of response for emergencies and increased the quality of that response. People here feel safe because of that.
WE GAINED BETTER INTEROPERABILITY AND ACCURACY
More than 1,500 police officers and 300 civilians provide a full range of law enforcement services to nearly 900,000 residents and business owners, while our Emergency Response Center dispatches police, fire and emergency medical services for 24 towns in Gloucester County, as well as for five towns in the neighboring Atlantic County. The Gloucester County Fire/EMS Department alone responded to more than 145,000 calls in 2016.
With so many different emergency services, interoperability is crucial, so we had to upgrade to the latest next generation 9-1-1 technology regardless of how complicated we thought it would be. Once we started the process, it went quicker than we realized. We also recently upgraded to a push-to-talk solution that allows all our first responders, as well as supervisors and administrators, to communicate with each other in a device-agnostic manner.
WE ARE NOW ABLE TO RESPOND TO CITIZENS WHO CAN’T CALL 9-1-1, BUT CAN TEXT
As citizens, we use so many more communication channels than we used to. For many of us, texting is our first thought when we need to reach someone. As first responders, we know that we must be responsive to our customers, no matter how they try to reach us.
With a growing population and rapid changes in technology, we knew it was important to bring new capabilities in an effort to help citizens in times of need. That included upgrading our call center technology to one that was ready for text to 9-1-1.
We pride ourselves on being innovative, collaborative and doing things that make a difference for people who live here.
This is a place where people want to stay, where they want to invest in their future. Businesses want to stay here because they know our future is bright. And the same goes for our community’s first responders and emergency telecommunicators. All of us who work in emergency response do it for the reward of helping people with vital information, support or rescue. We’re a central part of the life of Gloucester County, and we love what we do.
Tom Butts is Director of 9-1-1, Gloucester County Emergency Response.