911 center gets new CAD

PARKERSBURG – Wood County 911 Director Randy Lowe said some bugs are still being worked out with mapping issues, but officials are pleased with a new computer-aided dispatch system now in place at the Core Road 911 Telecommunications Center.

“We are still working out some of the kinks, anytime you have something new, there are always some bumps in the road. But the dispatchers, who are the ones who have to work with the new system, have had positive comments and are able to run efficiently even though it was a whole new system they had to learn,” Lowe said.

“We have added one more monitor instead of the two before, it opens up the system to where they can see and do more, minimizing movement of the screen to get where they go, that’s probably one of the biggest things. Another nice feature on the new system is that it will allow the dispatchers in the center to actually see the incident dispatchers when the Mobile Command Unit goes out,” Lowe said.

With the new CAD, anytime the volunteer fire departments are toned out, those firefighters who have said they want to receive a text, will now get that text, according to the director.

“Sometimes they miss the tone-out on the radio for whatever reason, and now, for those who wanted it, they will also receive a text as a redundant notification,” Lowe said. “We couldn’t do that with the old system and we were getting some complaints, so this will help. It’s not a perfect science, but it’s better than what we had before,” he said.

For fire and Emergency Medical Services that before received faxes on a regular basis, they will now get emails.

“That’s all happening behind the scenes, it will automatically be done. That will save our center and those agencies the cost of paper, ink cartridges, and other ax machine related costs,” Lowe said.

The center’s dispatch supervisors were involved with the selection of the system going in, the director said.

The conversion to the new equipment occurred Aug. 1.

“It’s a living, breathing system, it will constantly be updated and upgraded. One of the reasons we moved toward this system is that our last one was not being developed anymore, it was not available on the shelf. With this new system, we can come up with ideas, suggestions to improve efficiency and take them to the company for them to develop. It provides us more leeway, more flexibility,” he said.

Back in February, the county commissioners approved the purchase of the new system for the Central Telecommunications Center on Lowe’s recommendation. The joint bid totaling $382,612 was from Tiburon of California for software and Intrado of Colorado for phone system upgrades in hardware and software.

Funds to pay for the new system were paid out of the 911 budget. Lowe said Wirt County, which is also served by the center in Wood County, offered to pay half the cost of the project. The former CAD system was about 6-years old. The phone was installed in December 2007 and CAD in March 2008.

“We did bring in our own networking specialist to network all the systems together,” Lowe said, referring to accessing the Internet. “With the privacy, security as a concern in government along with personal security, we want to make sure our system has adequate firewalls and can’t be hacked,” Lowe said.

In addition to being outdated, and dealing with frequent hardware issues. Lowe said there were multiple problems with the former system. “In the middle of calls sometimes, the computer would just shut down,” Lowe said.

Interact provides service to 22 other West Virginia counties. Tiburon is a CAD vendor and coordinates with Intrado, the phone vendor being used now at the local 911 center. Lowe said the center has 15 positions and had seven back in 2007.