News Column

Vigo getting technology update for 911 dispatch, records management

August 3, 2014

By Lisa Trigg, The Tribune-Star, Terre Haute, Ind.

Aug. 03--TERRE HAUTE -- Vigo County's emergency communication services will become more efficient with an upcoming switch to a new 911 dispatch and records management system for the Vigo County Sheriff's Department.

Transition to the Interact Public Safety software is ongoing, Sheriff Greg Ewing told the Tribune-Star, and the records management and jail components are expected to go live in October.

"It's really going to be a huge improvement," Ewing said of the new system, which is part of a statewide network that counties can join to share information with other agencies.

Marion County recently went live with the system, and all of the surrounding counties are making the switch as well. Knox, Boone and Montgomery counties have also made the switch from their prior data management systems to the statewide network, and Vigo County will also be adding dispatch center and mobile data programs.

The new system is cloud-based, Ewing said, so there will be a savings in hardware costs, and all of the data storage and backups will be off-site.

Ewing said the county council received the request to switch from Cisco Public Safety software to Interact in February, when he requested an additional appropriation of $149,000 to make the switch. The sheriff's office began using its current records management, jail and computer-aided dispatch software in 2004 when it purchased the Cisco software. That company was sold in 2012 and it is no longer being maintained by the new owner, which has invited Cisco users to switch to the new owner's software.

After reviewing that option, however, the decision was made to go with a statewide network that is intended to link all counties in the same way that the state's Odyssey case management system is linking court records statewide.

Major Jeff Fox and 911 Director Rob McMullen also knew of the success of the statewide 800 megahertz radio system which all Vigo County public safety agencies use. The IPSC has been in charge of setting up Interact.

The data exchange and flexibility of the software is a big benefit, Fox said, along with the ability to access the data from any computer anywhere via the cloud. The current Cisco system is available only on computers that have the software loaded on it.

"The advantage is you only need an Internet connection to get to it," Fox said of the data that will be available. That means that officers can work away from the sheriff's department and the jail, but still have access to records for their investigations.

It is also expected to eliminate a lot of re-typing that goes on, he said, such as when a court issues a warrant and types up the paperwork, which must be walked over to the dispatch center, where it is retyped into a different system.

The jail also prints out a lot of paper, Fox said, but that will go away with new electronic signatures for the booking process, as well as bar-coding for inmates and the property room, where evidence is now tracked manually with pencil and paper.

As for deputies in their police vehicles, they can access the mobile database and will have access to more information that dispatchers may not have time to broadcast, such as criminal histories on suspects or situational awareness for tactical decision-making.

McMullen said that dispatchers only broadcast limited information in quick, precise burst of info. However, the information system may store additional remarks about a person or location that will be helpful to an officer responding to the scene.

The cost for 911 dispatch to move to the Interact CAD software is about $300,000. McMullen said that the 911 fees collected from telephone usage will pay for the upgrade, so no new fees or taxes will be passed on to the public.

There is no defined go-live date for the 911 CAD system, he said, because a lot of data must be rebuilt into the new system. It involves putting in recommendations for service, such as which units to send for a house fire at a certain address.

"That takes the guesswork out of it for the dispatchers," McMullen said, and is much faster than the old method of looking at a map to see what fire station is closest. "The system will be programmed to make specific recommendations calls for different units based on the need of that incident. That's why CAD is so vital. It gives dispatchers the information they need."

Kelly Dignin of Interact gave an example of how system can help an officer in the field. A motorist was pulled over by an officer who felt that "something fishy" was going on with the driver, but there was no probable cause to make an arrest or search the vehicle. Sometime later that day, the same motorist was pulled over in another county by an officer who got the same "fishy" vibe about the motorist. A check of the in-car computer revealed information entered about the earlier traffic stop, and the officer was able to get probable cause to search the vehicle. As a result, illegal drugs were found in the car, Dignin said.

The jail management system will also help Vigo County, she said, since the local jail staff will be able to check on the records for local inmates that are transferred down to Knox County due to inmate overcrowding in the Vigo County facility.

Major Fox also noted that the Interact system has received the support of the network of Vigo County fire departments, which will have decided to use the Interact system as well to stay connected through the mobile CAD component.

Sheriff Ewing said he thinks that as technology advances, it is likely that more agencies will migrate to cloud-based systems because of the cost savings in hardware and software maintenance, and the flexibility of sharing information.

McMullen agreed with Ewing that though the current technology has worked for several years, but it is time for an upgrade that will connect the county to a statewide network. The current system has been experiencing glitches as well, and the dispatchers rely on the information database to send the right people to respond to the right place at the right time.

"The CAD makes a tough job, a stressful job, in dispatch a little less stressful," he said.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.

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(c)2014 The Tribune-Star (Terre Haute, Ind.)

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Source: Tribune-Star (Terre Haute, IN)


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