In the late 1990s, Washington, D.C.’s 911 dispatch system was among the worst in the country. The district maintained separate call-taking and dispatch facilities for police, fire, and emergency medical services, and other agencies, including the city’s non-emergency customer service operations.
To improve public safety, create efficiencies, and consolidate personnel, equipment, and technology, the district created the Office of Unified Communications (OUC) and its Unified Communications Center (UCC). As OUC planned the new center, it needed to standardize on a computer-aided dispatch system for multi-agency incident management – one with enhanced functionality, but also cost-effective and easy to implement.
The OUC selected Hexagon Safety & Infrastructure’s industry-leading Intergraph Computer-Aided Dispatch (I/CAD) to consolidate and standardize incident management in the U.S. capital.
With I/CAD, call-takers and dispatchers can easily collect and share information among dozens of agencies, including federal government agencies and nearby jurisdictions, in real-time, ensuring fast and appropriate resource management. Mobile technologies extend CAD to mobile devices, heightening situational awareness for responders in the field.
Importantly, the system is configured to accommodate the business rules and workflows of the agency’s served. For example, for fire incidents, I/CAD determines the number of engines, ambulances, battalion chiefs, and support vehicles needed based on the type of incident. The OUC also deployed Hexagon’s analytics software, which enables incident mapping and analysis and data mining and reporting, helping to improve performance and stretch limited resources.
These robust capabilities have been proven many times over in the busy capital region, including to support major public events. For example, for the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the OUC extended CAD capabilities to remote field and mobile units stationed near inaugural event areas. A special event zone was created on the CAD map, and when 911 calls came from inside the zone, they were routed to the proper remote dispatch event area for dispatchers associated with the zone. This reduced response time as dispatchers were able to swiftly deploy mobile personnel on foot and bike.
Far from its poor rankings in the past, the National Emergency Number Association pronounced the district’s consolidated system a model for how 911 services should be engineered.