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Preparing for the Disaster: How the City of Spokane Bolstered Emergency Response Readiness

Author: Kurt Steward, Executive Director, Public Safety and Health & Human Services, Infor

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2013-12-05
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The Spokane Combined Communication Center (CCC), headquartered within the City of Spokane Fire Department, provides dispatch services to 15 fire and emergency medical services (EMS) agencies. Located in the state of Washington, the center relies on more than 1,000 volunteer and career first responders to address approximately 60,000 calls annually, from the 475,000 residents across the region.

After determining that a new radio network implementation was scheduled to take place in the county, Spokane CCC decision-makers knew that the existing Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) emergency response system would not be compatible.  The center would need to either upgrade its existing technology, or select and implement a new application.  The requirements for a new system would need to include a Microsoft SQL Server backend, an integrated Geographic Information System (GIS) platform, and the ability to provide route-based recommendations to responders.

“We saw this as an opportunity to improve the way we manage and respond to emergencies by utilizing an up-to-date technology platform,” said Ariane Schmidt, information systems manager, City of Spokane Fire Department.  “We wanted a solid product with tested core functionality, from a vendor that would continue to deliver enhancements.”

Although an existing Infor EnRoute customer, Spokane CCC leaders considered several solutions from other vendors.  They ultimately elected to upgrade to the latest version of Infor EnRoute because their longstanding relationship with Infor had been positive.  Their Infor team had always exhibited a willingness to meet the center’s needs, and had consistently demonstrated a strong understanding of their daily operations.

The Spokane, Washington, Combined Communications Center

Decision-makers felt that the Infor platform would provide the most flexibility and advanced data analysis functionality.  Further, it was compatible with the primary platform and GIS mapping requirements.  Rather than ripping and replacing the existing system, the Spokane CCC was able to achieve more meaningful benefits by opting for a smooth transition and upgrade with a familiar vendor and product.

“There’s a lot to be said for Infor’s knowledge of how we function as an entity,” said Jay Atwood, deputy chief, Communication Division, City of Spokane Fire Department.  “They have always delivered timely and attentive customer support, which was of high importance to us.”

After officially signing their contract in September 2012, the Spokane CCC began the upgrade process in January 2013.  The implementation was completed within the established budget, with successful go-live achieved for all fire and EMS dispatch operations in June 2013.

By utilizing the latest version of Infor EnRoute, the Spokane CCC is able to equip all of their dispatch users with the latest GIS functionality.  This allows them to make route recommendations to responders, helping EMS and fire units to arrive at the scene of an incident as quickly as possible.  Infor EnRoute also provides advanced data drill down capabilities, which facilitates in-depth analysis of dispatch responses.  By examining dispatch trends and identifying commonalities, the decision-makers can define the most effective means of response to help improve the center’s efficiency.

The Spokane CCC also benefits in respect to the capture and transfer of data.  Information management users have successfully consolidated more than 30,000 static response cards into approximately 1,800 dynamic recommendations with the new response configuration.   With the Microsoft SQL Server backend, users also experience enhanced visibility into data across all 15 distinctive entities of the Spokane CCC.  This allows employees from separate divisions to collaborate with one another, facilitating improved unit deployment decisions.

Greater visibility into data also helps to speed daily processes.  When one user updates an entry, it is automatically updated throughout the system, reducing manual entry requirements.  Infor EnRoute delivers a modern, easy-to-use interface and automated workflows, which helps to further increase efficiency by enabling fast access to critical data and instantly pushing open cases to the next necessary stakeholder.

“Overall we are much more connected than before the upgrade,” said Schmidt.  “Users in different agencies view the same data in real-time, ensuring that everyone is on the same page.  Fire and EMS leaders can more easily work together to make the best decisions for our citizens.”

While automating data capture, analysis and the ability to generate route-based recommendations are important advantages, the ability to test different emergency response scenarios is the most critical benefit experienced by the Spokane CCC.  Infor EnRoute provides the flexibility to make ad hoc changes without going through a multitude of steps, making it much faster and easier to compare various responses.  This allows department leaders to optimize dispatch actions during a real crisis, as they have already identified the most effective measures during test scenarios.

Upgrading to the latest version of Infor EnRoute enabled the Spokane CCC to examine and restructure its existing processes to facilitate faster, safer responses to emergency situations.  The center was able to establish an emergency response plan for incidents such as natural disasters that might require extensive resources – including fire fighters, ambulances or EMS responders.  By instituting the necessary guidelines for situations of this nature, the Spokane CCC is better prepared to serve its citizens during any type of emergency that might arise in the future.

“We didn’t want to wait for something big to happen to begin preparing for a large-scale emergency,” said Atwood.  “Infor EnRoute allows us to be proactive, rather than reactive.  Taking action quickly will help us to minimize the effects of a disaster, should a situation ever arise.” 

For emergency response units, technology plays a critical role in the ability to provide effective services.  Errors or extended response times can have potentially life-threatening results.  This makes it even more critical for organizations like the Spokane CCC to have real-time access to reliable data and clearly outlined processes.  By depending on best-practices developed through GIS-centric technology, fire and EMS units can deliver timely, dependable assistance to citizens.

 

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