New emergency dispatch system harnesses mobile tech

By Michael Hall

When Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering began his career nearly three decades ago, the thought of holding an interactive map in his hand would have been like something out of a science fiction novel.

He and the rest of the Glynn County public safety community will see fiction become reality when the county’s new $485,000 computer aided dispatch, or CAD, system goes online next Monday. The county spent and additional $1.1 million to convert decades worth of reports and other information kept in a separate records management system that works with the new software.

“We wouldn’t have dreamed of this,” Doering said. “It is going to be a new mindset.”

His excitement is shared by others because it has been 12 years since the system that helps disseminate information about emergency calls has been updated. In technological terms, that is like a century.

After Monday, when dispatchers at the Glynn County 911 center receive a call, information about its nature, location and what the call-taker has been told will be immediately available to all emergency personnel on laptops in police cars, computers at police and fire stations and even cell phones.

The shift is a quantum leap from the method now used that requires first responders to map the locations themselves or ask the 911 call-taker for more information about where the calls are. That system is no longer sold and is no longer serviced, meaning it has outlived its usefulness, Doering said.

Clicking around in the new program, Doering pulled up a map showing a red pin on the screen where a hypothetical emergency call may appear. The map he looked at on his desktop computer is the same his officers will see on the laptops in their cars or through an app on their smartphones.

The maps, along with notes from the call-taker and information about any prior calls at that address, will give officers, paramedics and firefighters a better idea of what to expect when they arrive on scene and which officers were in the area. With the old system, gathering that information could sometimes take several minutes and potentially delay response times.

“This allows the supervisors to better manage the officers’ time,” Doering said.

That is what Brunswick Police Maj. Greg Post said is one of the best features of the new CAD system.

“The biggest difference is that we will be able to see all the dispatch information,” Post said. “This is like going from Windows XP straight to Windows 8.”

By mid-year, he said every Brunswick police cruiser should be outfitted with a laptop officers can use to access the system.

Officers and firefighters can also see a complete list of all of the active calls on their laptops or smartphones, giving everyone a chance to be on the same page.

“It is absolutely more efficient,” Post said. The new system will also keep detailed records of all calls and allow officers to write and file reports from the laptops in their cars. This means analyzing crime report data will be much easier and more efficient as well.

“That means we can be more proactive and not just reactive,” Doering said.

Being able to quickly and easily see a certain area of the county and what kind of crimes have been reported there during a certain time period will be a boon for groups like the joint violent crimes task force and the county’s crime suppression, which is focusing on property crimes.

It will also show on the map where previously convicted criminals live, giving officers the option to pull up mugshots they can show people for potentially quicker identification of suspects.

With county and city fire departments, county and city police departments, Glynn County Schools Police, College of Coastal Georgia Police and the Glynn County Sheriff’s Office all having access to the system, Doering said communication between agencies will also be enhanced.

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