SNOPAC Not Satisfied With New Dispatch System

dispatch system

SNOPAC handles dispatching for Everett Police and Fire along with several other agencies in Snohomish County.

Satisfied is not the word SNOPAC Executive Director Kurt Mills would use to describe his agency’s relationship with New World Systems, the vendor hired to develop a new computer aided dispatch system for Law Enforcement and Fire/EMS response in Everett and Snohomish County. “New World Systems has been very responsive,” Mills said. “We are impatient and asking for more.” has been reporting on issues with the new computer aided dispatching system which went live last fall. The system replaces an out of date CAD system used by SNOPAC over the last decade. Today Mills and Snohomish County Sheriff’s Public Information Director Shari Ireton sat down with to talk about the dispatching issues.

“We can do things with the new system that we haven’t been able to do before,” said Mills. “While things aren’t perfect we are about ninety five percent of where we want to be. In our line of business we are by nature impatient. We will continue to get this system where it needs to be for both the first responders and the public.”

So far SNOPAC has spent $3.5 million dollars for its share of New World Systems products and services. That amount does not include SNOCOM’s share for dispatching in south Snohomish County. In addition almost every law enforcement and fire agency has additional costs of dedicated staff to work on implementation of the system.

The whole computer aided dispatch system is rather daunting. There are two dispatch centers, (SNOPAC and SNOCOM) along with three jails, (Marysville, Lynnwood and Snohomish County) 53 law enforcement or fire/ems agencies and around 4000 users. While many of the problems refer to New World, that really isn’t accurate. New World has become more of a catch-all term anymore as there are multiple systems that function underneath the New World software including Locution, (which sends the fire department address and call information), Radio IP Networks, Computer Servers, Hardware at the dispatch and user end and Cellular Networks connectivity issues and competition for bandwidth.

Courtney DeWinter who works with Locution Systems gave a brief explanation of how their system is put together for fire departments…

Where Locution fits into the hierarchy: In the hierarchy of Fire Station Alerting technology, the CAD system (New World) is the brains of the 911 system and is the top of the food chain. The Locution fire station alerting system rides one level below the CAD system, and relies on data received from the CAD system in order to operate.

So if the CAD system is experiencing problems, the Locution system can’t operate and send out automated dispatches.

This is why it’s not accurate to say the “locution system has presented problems.”

Automated Dispatching Process: Here’s a quick look at the process of automated dispatching:

1) A 911 call arrives at the emergency communications center.

2) The dispatcher or call taker gets the information about the fire or medical emergency, and enters the information into the CAD system.

3) The CAD system (the “brains”) assesses the location of the emergency and maps it to available Fire-EMS department units, and then recommends the responding unit that should handle that particular emergency.

4) The dispatcher reviews the CAD’s recommendation, and then commits that responding unit.

5) Once a dispatcher has committed a specific responding unit for the fire, accident, or medical emergency, the CAD system sends the dispatch information to a Locution systems computer in the emergency communications center. The information sent over to the Locution systems computer is: responding unit assigned to handle the call, address of the emergency, incident type (fire, accident, medical emergency), and cross streets or landmarks to help the responding unit locate the emergency.

6) Once the Locution station alerting system receives that information from the CAD, it will automatically send that information to the responding unit, and vocalize the dispatch in a clear, accent-neutral voice.

Again, if the CAD is having problems, then the Locution station alerting system can’t do its job.

Mills says SNOPAC is working to address every issue big and small. Another upgrade is planned to the system next week. In addition Verizon is working to prioritize emergency services in their cellular network and will dedicate a back line to Snohomish County to help with connectivity issues. There are also plans for ongoing and expanded training.

Human error, both on the dispatch side as well as the law enforcement and fire sides have also contributed to issues since the service was implemented. Examples include a delay in dispatching Everett Police to a bank robbery. The release of two inmates from the Snohomish County Jail early, (both were quickly returned). Sending medic units to a wrong location delaying help for a medic who had a seizure while on a call as well as for the 6 year old boy for whom the call was originally dispatched. Failure to monitor the radio when the system was having problems.

The learning curve among all the various people using the system has presented challenges. Some adapt to new systems quickly while others are resistant to change. (If your company has ever gone through a software or system upgrade you know the feeling)

Equipment failures including hard drives, non-public safety grade data modems used in first responder’s vehicles and malfunctioning radios have also led to issues.

Both Mills and the City of Everett have said they have no plans right now to take any legal action against New World Systems as has been done by other agencies. It’s also important to remember that for every call where there was a problem there are thousands of calls that are handled correctly. As Mills said, “We gotta nail that last five percent.”


About myeverettnews

My Everett News is a hyperlocal news website featuring breaking news and events in Everett, WA. We also cover City of Everett information and items of interest to those who live and work in Everett. It's written by Leland Dart a former Snohomish County based radio reporter born and raised in Everett.

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