When an emergency strikes and time is of the essence, Waukesha County’s residents and visitors call or text 9-1-1 to connect with the Waukesha County Communications Center (WCC), where more than 40 everyday heroes dispatch first responders and coordinate radio communications for 19 police departments and 19 fire departments.
This fall, WCC was featured in a major network television documentary series that captures how dispatchers calmly reassure and guide callers while simultaneously sharing information with and coordinating support from first responders rushing to the scene.
“There are two key elements to fast, effective emergency response, which are people and technology,” said Gary Bell, WCC’s director of emergency preparedness. “I’m fortunate to be working with an amazing team of dispatchers who embody what it means to serve our community. We also use some of the most advanced integrated software and radio technologies to quickly answer calls for help, share critical information and communicate across agencies.”
Behind the scenes, dispatchers use a network of software technologies to share information and coordinate a response. WCC works closely with technology provider Motorola Solutions (NYSE:MSI) to use some of the most advanced mission-critical communication solutions to address almost 250,000 calls per year. Here’s a look at what happens from the time a call is placed to when first responders arrive at the scene to help someone in need.
A 9-1-1 call comes in: Dispatchers are the “first” first responders. When they answer a call for help, they immediately focus on obtaining the location of the emergency and key details that will help them determine if they need to send police, firefighters or emergency medical technicians (EMT) to the scene. Using Motorola Solutions’ CallWorks software, dispatchers see all incoming calls on one map and can prioritize them in an emergency. This is the reason why 9-1-1 call takers first ask “9-1-1, where’s your emergency?” Knowing a caller’s location is a priority and verifying this information on a map enhances accuracy to save even more time.
First responders are dispatched: Every second is critical when first responders need to help someone in an emergency. The dispatcher is responsible for connecting those in need with those who can help – it’s a high stress role communicating simultaneously with the 9-1-1 caller and the first responders. They use Motorola Solutions’ MCC 7500 dispatch consoles to share real-time information with the right people involved in the response. And realizing that no two calls are the same, identifying who the right people are and who has the right equipment to give the best support on scene is vital to this process. An EMT helping someone experiencing a heart attack is very different than police officers apprehending a burglar in a store. Dispatchers need to manage information coming in from one or several 9-1-1 callers, separate what’s important and relevant from what’s not, and share this critical information with responders within seconds.
First responders are coordinating on scene: It is impossible to predict where every incident will take place and what kind of incident it will be. Interoperable communications is essential because dispatchers, police officers, firefighters, EMT, county agencies and others need to be able to communicate and coordinate with each other. Waukesha County uses a mission-critical ASTRO® 25 radio network for seamless communications across the county including neighboring Milwaukee County. This kind of communications flexibility and scalability means that citizens in Waukesha County are better protected because the right first responders can be brought together dynamically to address incidents as they occur. Waukesha County also monitors the health of their radio network using cloud-based CirrusCentral Management to maintain and ensure the availability of their network from anywhere at any time.
“9-1-1 dispatchers are heroes. They are the lifeline to people in need, guiding them through emergencies, while seamlessly coordinating responses with first responders,” said Chris Lonnett, vice president of Central Region Sales, Motorola Solutions. “Calling 9-1-1 can be the worst day in someone’s life. Our mission is to help citizens in our communities when they need it most by working with our customers, such as Waukesha County, to deliver technology that supports and serves the heroes who help us during our most critical moments.”