New 911 system coming online

Dispatch Supervisor Rushay Nowlin and Kathy Michealson at their stations. Upgrades to the dispatch system are expected to permit faster response.

The county’s move to an updated Computer Aided Dispatch system in the next 60 days is expected to create efficiencies, in turn leading to better performance, Heber Springs Fire Chief Jason Robitaille said.

Robitaille said the technology behind the new system had been well-proven in other applications, and would help responders and equipment get on-scene faster.

Dispatch Supervisor Rushay Nowlin shared this outlook.

Both are working on the move to Computer Aided Dispatch, called “CAD,” as part of the overall change and upgrade to the county’s 911 dispatch system.

Current dispatch operations, out of the Heber Springs City Hall building, are expected to move to the county OEM office Jan. 8, Nowlin said.

Robitaille said the benefits of the CAD system impact both immediate response, as well as providing data to facilitate planning and preparation for future emergencies.

In dispatch, the system permits faster data acquisition, shortening the time between when a call reaches 911 and when the initial dispatch takes place, such as providing detailed location data for a given caller.

Nowlin explained that the current system relied on the dispatcher’s experience in call response. With the new system, Robitaille said, the data takes place right on the dispatcher’s screen as the call is being received. Data would include if previous calls had been received from a given location, as might influence dispatch response.

This same data can be transmitted to responders on-the-fly, Robitaille said, so the, in effect, where to go and when questions is answered right on the responder’s cell phone.

The CAD system is “... a big game-changer” for the county, Robitaille said.

The advantage extends past just the immediacy of dispatch, Robitaille said. By the nature of the system, more data is retained and processed over 911 activities. This allows several advantages, including acquiring data useful for grant applications as the data would show a particular or growing need.

Further would be the ability to parse data to find active times and/or areas which would help responders, including police, target particular problem areas. If dispatch receives multiple calls in a particular area or during a particular time for, say, fires, data would show the higher activity levels and decisions could be made in advance of the next problem time-cycle.

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