Dairy cows nuzzle the thick grass of Waukesha County, an agrarian landscape just east of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It is part farm community, part industry and business epicentre, and part tourist destination – did you know that the City of Waukesha is the birthplace of Les Paul and that fans refer to Waukesha as Guitar Town? Waukesha is home to more than 390,000 people. It has everything from nature trails to a bustling interstate highway system. Its close proximity to the city of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County means public safety officials require seemless communication within the greater metropolitan area.
It’s a big challenge to support the needs of the county while playing a critical role with neighbors. The Waukesha County Emergency Communications Center, for example, provides backup and support to a number of area PSAPS when their call center or supporting infrastructure becomes compromised. A few years ago, the Waukesha County Communications Center assisted with facility space and staff support for three weeks after Milwaukee County suffered from a fire that impacted their infrastructure.
Support from the Public for Public Safety
Waukesha has a strong relationship with the community it serves. Through public survey, the county has established its strategic initiatives where in ‘A safe county’ received 40% support and ranked as the top priority of its constituents. Therefore, 40 cents on every county tax levy dollar collected has been budgeted to public safety supporting the community’s recommendation. In carrying this out further, local Police Departments and the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department operate a popular education program; in which county members participate to learn how their community is protected.
With public safety being a priority for the county, administrators have created and implemented a strategic plan in order to maintain existing and plan for future infrastructure needs. In identifying the effective life cycle of the outgoing analog systems environment, the county committed a percentage of budget each year to prepare for that changeover.
Careful planning meant the county was financially set for the change, but selecting and implementing new NG9-1-1systems presented a new set of challenges. We had a number of goals to reach:
- Select a system that would provide interoperability throughout Waukesha, Milwaukee County, and with other regional and state agencies that Waukesha worked with.
- Find a system that fully supports digital communications, from dispatch centers and radios, to texting, image support, and video streaming.
- Make sure the NG9-1-1 system would be easy to integrate into the dispatch center with training and support for all the staff.
- Ensure that the system could expand as the county’s needs – and technology – changed.
Focus on Community Safety
On any given day, the county can experience a serious interstate highway incident, incidents spilling over from neighboring counties, workplace accidents, or visitors in trouble or hurt on a nature trail. Dispatchers need tools at their fingertips that can help them immediately identify a callers’ location, and get that information out into the field as quickly and accurately as possible. First responders need assistance in getting to specific locations, particularly in remote hard-to-access areas, and this vital information about an incident increases their efficiency and ability to handle the situation once they arrive. The Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) solution we fully vetted and ultimately selected provides us with the tools needed to effectively and efficiently support our operations. In doing so, the feature rich system allowed us to overcome a few additional challenges as well. For example, the system can:
- Use location mapping that immediately pinpoints callers to a map for faster response.
- Communicate in a digital or analog environment, giving them the ability to maintain close communications with surrounding counties and other agencies that have not yet made the transition.
- Support text messaging, and as Wisconsin plans for and implements its NG9-1-1 i3 infrastructure, more NG9-1-1 features and functionality will become available allowing for receiving and processing of images and video.
As envisioned, this high performing system will help everyone, (callers, dispatchers, public safety responders) during an emergency, helping to facilitate the best possible outcome.
Waukesha is among the first to adopt this advanced system in Wisconsin, and the hard work in selecting and implementing the new solution is paving the way for emergency services departments throughout the state. A mix of thoughtful planning and pre-planning made their decision easier and the transition seamless.
Find out more about Waukesha’s NG9-1-1 transition at National Emergency Numbers Association (NENA) 2016. We will be featured in the NENA session: Implementing NG9-1-1 The Importance of Operationally Enabling New Technologies