DEC 16, 2018
As public safety agencies continue to experience funding challenges, many departments are exploring interlocal government agreements or consolidation initiatives to share the costs of technology updates across a larger population. The four Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP) in the Greater Boulder County region, City of Longmont Communications, City of Boulder Communications, Boulder County Communications, and University of Colorado Police Department, have been operating on a regional communications system since the 1980s—long before it became common in public safety. Different than the traditional consolidation model, the four communication centers are each primary PSAPs and maintain their own dispatching services under their own jurisdictional authority.
According to Jay Willette, Communications Supervisor for Boulder County Sheriff’s Office, “Our previous CAD system was a COBOL-based system that was nearing its end of life. Built on 1980s standards, the system offered little flexibility. We were only allowed to make minimal GUI changes, limited to two-digit codes for incident types and response plans configurations were not dynamic. Additionally, the Sheriff’s Office and Boulder Police were the only departments with mobile data system integrated with our CAD. Many of our user agencies did not have mobile or any field access to CAD information.”
While the system was very stable and easy to maintain, it was no longer able to meet the needs of its user agencies. The management at the four communication centers agreed that a new multi-agency, multi-jurisdiction CAD with an integrated mobile data solution would maximize data accessibility among all their various law enforcement and fire agencies. The goal of their desired new system is to provide the optimal level of flexibility for each communication center to maintain its own distinct operations, allowing them to provide the highest service level agreements to their user agencies and citizens, while also being able to operate on a single system to share resources, share data, and share costs of a regional communications system.
“We attended several tradeshows and saw lots of systems which had much more functionality than we had in our system,” says Patti West, director for Longmont Emergency Communications. “Based on what we experienced in the industry, we worked with a consultant on a formal request for proposal (RFP) to put together a list of our desired requirements.”
After a thorough process, the selection committee chose the integrated CAD and Mobile solutions developed by CentralSquare Technologies. West continued, “We are four different communication centers who each dispatch for different agencies and departments. Without fitting the traditional model of a consolidated agency, it was hard for vendors to understand our challenges. CentralSquare was a good fit because they seemed most willing to work through the uniqueness of our situation.”
The team worked through several challenges during implementation including obtaining accurate GIS data, building out a new digital network infrastructure, and defining the hierarchy of the system. “We are a very unique situation with how our agencies are set up,” said West. “Once we worked through our hierarchy issues, we were able to move forward and truly see the flexibility of CAD Enterprise to support our operations.”
Becky Korte, Communications Supervisor for University of Colorado Boulder Police, said “For three years we worked closely with a core team from all four agencies, troubleshooting and working with CentralSquare to find best practices and solutions. We each handled training in our own agencies by having our staff actually work on the system that had been set up before going live. This also enabled us to find problems and discrepancies that needed to be fixed. We all went live in the period of one day, rolling one agency at a time with CentralSquare staff at each PSAP.”
Partnering with a consultant for their project management expertise, the agencies were able to overcome their various implementation challenges. Korte continued, “CAD and Mobile Enterprise brings us forward into better technology with tools that allow for more effective call taking and responses.”
According to Eric Rickman, Technical System Administrator for BPFC, “The new technology requires more technical maintenance, but in the end, we have so much more functionality than we had previously.”
“The configurability of CAD Enterprise has provided us the ability to effectively support the various operations and processes of the various departments we serve,” says Willette. “Our 21 fire departments do things 21 different ways, and we are able to uniquely configure our response plans for each different agency.”
“The new system brings a global aspect to our entire operations,” concluded West. “Any dispatcher in the county can come in and do the job.”