emergency communications center dispatch

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

How Orange County Fire Authority speeds dispatch operations

The Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) is a regional fire service agency serving 23 cities and all unincorporated areas in Orange County, Calif. Annually, the emergency communications center processes approximately 252,000 phone calls, both business and emergency, which in 2014 resulted in the dispatches to over 125,000 incidents.

In order to provide that level of service, the communications center is staffed with dispatchers who work 24-hour shifts, providing service every hour of the day, 365 days a year. All dispatchers are certified to provide callers waiting for emergency medical personnel  with advice and treatment instructions on clearing airway obstructions, bleeding control, CPR and childbirth procedures.

Providing 911 operations for Orange County, however, is a constant challenge. Residents who dial 911 expect help in critical situations; therefore, 911 call centers need to work efficiently to respond promptly and reliably to dispatch the necessary assistance for many different types of emergency situations. Emergency communication centers must have the resources and infrastructure to be able to handle responses to ongoing daily demands as well as large-scale disasters.

To increase the reliability of its systems and improve the working environment for its dispatchers, the OCFA looked to what many 911 centers are investing in today: KVM technology that controls multiple computers from one or more sets of keyboards, video monitors and mice.

The OCFA wanted to update its command center by replacing outdated PS/2s with USB peripherals, maintain its current single- and dual-head VGA monitors, improve ergonomics for each console and utilize standard cabling infrastructure throughout the building. Eighteen dispatch consoles -- each with one operator and five screens -- also had to be able to access four remote computers in an access- and climate-controlled area.  

In order to build the work environment that would best aid operators and allow them to access remote computers, the OCFA deployed multiple KVM solutions to extend the keyboard, video and mouse from each computer to each of these consoles. This provided single- and dual-head video at 1920x1200 resolution and fully transparent, full-speed USB capability using standard Cat5 cable up to 150 feet from the computer source to the operative console.

A command and control switch was also deployed at each of the 18 consoles, giving operators seamless management of multiple systems using a single mouse and keyboard to quickly move from one system to another. Dispatch time is critical and a smooth transition from one system to the other ensures dispatchers are reaching citizens as quickly as possible with the best possible service.

After installing the KVM technology, the OCFA emergency communications center operators could instantly access  multiple disparate systems  from one workstation and could remove  several computers from the critical operating environment.

The OCFA now has the flexibility to move across multiple systems seamlessly. With the help of KVM technology, operators in the center are spending less time on connectivity issues and more on helping save lives.

About the Author

Tim Conway is vice president at Adder Corp.

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