‘Information management system’ to improve emergency efficiency

By Brent Brown – Daily News  

GREENSBURG – The first glimpse of a new data compiling system intended to streamline the process of and maximize efficiency in local emergency responses was given to a group of public safety workers Tuesday morning.

Anticipated to officially launch on or around July 1, 2015, the county’s new initiative is a computer aided dispatch system aimed at improving communication among emergency responders. Eighteen months in the making, the new project will be paid for through $686,000 in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds garnered from Honda and awarded by the Decatur County Redevelopment Commission.

Spillman Technologies, Inc. is providing the software for the effort, and representatives of that company met with the project team at the Decatur County Emergency Management Agency’s (EMA) Emergency Operations Center Tuesday to brief that group on what to expect with its implementation, now and in the future.

The long-term future of emergency response communication in Decatur County was the effort’s focus.

EMA Director Rob Duckworth said the new software effectively lays the groundwork for emergency response communication locally for the next quarter-century, improving communication among agencies and allowing for a much more elaborate database.

Decatur County Sheriff Greg Allen said the computer aided dispatch system will allow emergency responders from any agency access to all available information when responding to a 911 call.

He used an example of a residence to which police have responded for multiple domestic disputes. Such information would be searchable by police, emergency medical staff, or any other agency responding to the call. Additionally, the system can be used to equal effect in responding to medical emergencies. The database will include a history of the calls from particular residences, thereby enabling medical professionals to more effectively treat patients in an emergency.

The sheriff said the current system has no such structure, and communication with other departments is cumbersome. As it stands currently, officers in the field must wait for dispatchers to relay information to another agency, who in turn must wait for a response from that agency. Those steps are cut out of the equation due to the new system, freeing up dispatchers and allowing officers to collect important data much more quickly.

Duckworth said each squad car for the Sheriff’s Department and the Greensburg Police Department is currently equipped with a laptop computer, and information about each 911 call can be viewed by law enforcement personnel in that way once the new system goes live.

“I think it’s going to make us a lot more efficient,” Allen said. “Having access to that info also helps with officer safety.”

Both Duckworth and the sheriff agreed that one of the major roadblocks to getting the project underway was finding a way to fund it without using the county’s tax dollars.

Decatur County Redevelopment Commission President Mike Walker said Duckworth and Greensburg Fire Chief Scott Chasteen did much of the background work and research for the effort and gained Honda’s support by sitting in on meetings and having a clear plan for implementation.

The effort took more than a year to get off the ground, but all involved anticipate positive dividends.

Chasteen said having a project to present to the Redevelopment Commission that, for all intents and purposes, was “shovel ready” went a long way in getting approval. 

“We’re just very appreciative to [the Redevelopment Commission and Honda] for providing us with the funds to move forward with this project,” Chief Chasteen said.

The fire chief described the effort as “an information management system” and said it would aid his crews in a number of ways.

“It can help us decide if we need to call in mutual aid, if we need an ambulance,” Chasteen said. “In our job, the more information we can have upon responding [to an emergency situation] is vital to us.”

Duckworth said the system will also allow for free updated software so long as it’s maintained.

Both Chasteen and Duckworth told the Daily News the information will aid the EMA in pre-planning for potential disasters, hopefully making emergency responses in those situations all that more efficient.

Beyond law enforcement and medical professionals, other local agencies are expected to benefit from the data collecting capabilities of the new system.

A positive byproduct of the effort, Duckworth said, is the availability of data that will help local nonprofits compile important information when seeking grants.

“This will affect grant-funding for other agencies,” the EMA director said. “They’ll have good data to show their needs.”

Sheriff Allen said attempts to cull data now are laborious in comparison to how things are expected to run with the information sharing system is put into place next year.

“I think it’s going to be a good thing,” Allen said. “It’s long overdue.”

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