Emergency information sharing system online

By Brent Brown

GREENSBURG – Law enforcement officials believe a new information sharing system will lead to greater efficiency among local emergency agencies. 

Decatur County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director Rob Duckworth said a new computer aided dispatch system will improve communication among police, fire and EMS crews, leading to greater efficiency, consistency, and improved information sharing. The new system is currently being used by local law enforcement agencies and their respective dispatch centers and will soon be in place for all Decatur County fire departments and emergency medical services. The EMA and Decatur County Prosecutor’s Office are making use of the new system currently, and the Decatur County Jail is soon to follow. Duckworth said implementation has gone according to schedule, and he hopes all local agencies will be up and running with the new software by the end of the month.

Duckworth, who is also a lieutenant with the Decatur County Sheriff’s Department, said the new system has been well received by police and sheriff’s deputies and that the changeover brings a necessary uniformity that has been lacking due to the absence of a consistent data sharing system.

Duckworth said the new system, which is handled by Spillman Technologies, a public safety software integration company, gives each first responder in the field a real-time look at a developing situation. In essence, all emergency responders have all known data about a particular incident available to them simultaneously, at a glance.

“It’s much more convenient for information gathering,” Duckworth said of the integrated software.

The EMA director said all law enforcement vehicles are currently equipped with laptops that make use of the new system, the functionality of which has been well received by officers.

Using a traffic stop as an example, Duckworth said the officer initiating the stop is now capable of gathering information about the driver and the vehicle without having to radio the dispatch center. Additionally, previous calls to individual residences are logged consistently, giving officers, fire officials and emergency medical professionals a significant “leg up” when responding to a situation at a home.

Law enforcement officials will be aware of any prior incident calls, aiding in officer safety, while EMS and fire personnel, who are often first on the scene of medical calls, will know immediately of a patient’s medical history based on prior health-related 911 calls.

An offender’s criminal history will be difficult to leave behind by moving to a new location as well, Duckworth said, as several nearby communities’ association with Spillman Technologies allows data sharing among agencies across the state.

Duckworth said the system’s ability to free up radio traffic is one of the most significant improvements brought about via the computer aided dispatch system. Two recent traffic accidents that occurred moments apart, at nearly opposite ends of the county, put the system to the test and helped ensure emergency responders made it to each location in a timely manner, in order to provide medical care and reroute traffic appropriately.

The system in place also provides the benefit of a messaging program, similar to cell phone text messaging, that allows individual emergency professionals to communicate with one another, in groups or even among multiple agencies.

“We’re hoping that functionality helps when radio traffic is at a premium,” Duckworth said.

Smaller improvements are paying dividends as well.

Duckworth said the use of the information sharing system by the local prosecutor’s office allows attorneys to keep tabs on police work as an investigation progresses, giving prosecutors a closer look at a potential case than they might otherwise receive. Another positive byproduct from that association is simply saving money on paper and other office expenses.

Greensburg Chief of Police Brendan Bridges said the paperless communication with the prosecutor’s office helps save money for the department and the city as a whole.

Bridges said officers are familiar with how the system works due to having similar data sharing software previously in place, and that the upgrades the new system brings are helpful.

The police chief said he is planning a meeting with administrative officers soon in order to discuss any problems with the system.

“Overall, the guys like it,” Bridges said. “After probably a month into it, there won’t be any issues.”
Duckworth is confident the new system will be a positive addition for all local emergency responders and that it will set the stage for intra-agency communication for years to come. He said Greensburg Police Sergeant Mike McNealy, Decatur County Sheriff’s Department Dispatch Supervisor/911 Coordinator Karla McCullough, and IT specialist Josh Tressler were all integral in getting the system online. Tressler handles IT duties for both the county and the city’s police forces.

The project has been paid for via a grant from the Decatur County Redevelopment Commission which uses Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds from Greensburg’s Honda Manufacturing of Indiana.

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