TriTech CAD: thoughts, comments, concerns?

Pros, cons, experiences with computer-aided dispatch software
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Postby HennepinEMS440 » Wed Nov 21, 2007 9:41 pm

I agree that Hennepin EMS get's the call more efficiently, since we are on the same CAD system. More than likely some time is shaved off of the call reciept to dispatch timeframe. However, in fairness, before you make the assumption that North Minneapolis citizens are being treated differently, let's have full disclosure.

It is a fact that North Ambulance recieves ALL of the calls in it's entire service area the same way - by phone. From North Minneapolis, to Robbinsdale, to Rogers, to Orono - they are ALL transferred by phone and entered into the North CAD system. In fact, this is exactly how it was done for North Minneapolis several years ago, before North Ambulance agreed to have a legacy CAD terminal in the dispatch center. Even with that, they still had to re-enter the call into the North Ambulance CAD System. I know, I worked there. And in my professional opinion, having worked there before the CAD terminal and after the CAD terminal, it made a big difference with the information we recieved and probably made it safer for the responding paramedics - but I wouldnt take the leap that the "service" provided before or after was better.

At Hennepin EMS, we enjoy the added efficiency of sharing a CAD system with Minneapolis. But we cover 13 other municipalities in Hennepin County, Minnesota. And guess what? The PSAPs that take the 9-1-1 call for those cities have to pick up the phone and call us, and we have to enter it into CAD. Are you suggesting they recieve "inferior service" or "inferior medical dispatching" as well? Sorry, I beg to differ.

The issues surrounding North Ambulance and the CAD2CAD interface are huge. There is a large group working on this issue daily and nobody would like to see it solved more than I would. There are many factors to the delays, some are on Tritech, some are on MECC and some are on the North Ambulance CAD vendor. But the only thing Minneapolis Administrators are guilty of is, underestimating the amount of work it would take to complete.

I think the blanket statement "In reality, MECC is providing inferior service to the citizens of North Minneapolis" is just not true, and another attempt to discredit when it's not warranted.

Seconds do save lives, and I can attest that we have better tools and can make better decisions and are saving seconds with the new CAD. I completely agree that it may be better for "ambulance dispatching", I can only speak with my EMS hat on. I would not pretend to try and speak for police/fire dispatchers.

May I suggest you do the same.

- Chris Kummer

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Postby Tex4951 » Wed Nov 21, 2007 10:02 pm

In response to ABCD911

I’m not going to get involved in a back and forth “E-battle.” You clearly can’t see what the real issue is. We could go on forever but your extreme ego will never accept that you are clearly wrong. Your entire post is contradicting and states no facts.

Your issue with the North side is a pain and seems like it won’t be resolved in some time. But, the fact is every other community that North responds to, receives the call just as we are doing today. Funny thing is, the other communities have smaller communications centers and less staff on shift, but you don’t see them running off to the media to complain. They just do their job and are thankful they have a good job.

You are correct; this is the land of free speech. I am standing up for what I believe and what they say IS my business. I am a lifelong resident of Minneapolis and I believe these select few ungrateful employees are putting unnecessary fear in the minds of other Minneapolis residents. Just as we don’t go to the media with all the horrible events we deal with everyday that the public isn’t aware of; you should NOT be going to the media with this. I take no shame in what I have said or believe.

I also believe the workplace is a breeding ground for the downright bitchy. After all, it is the place where you are forced to spend a third of your day in the company of people you would normally cross the street to avoid. I will take my own advice and cross the street now.

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Postby Fallosk0 » Thu Nov 22, 2007 7:51 am

As an employee of MECC, I am embarassed that this type of communications is linked to our department. This is not the proper FORUM for airing our dirty laundry. We have a new system and we are working with it, do we do less for the citizens of Minneapolis, I say not. We are all doing the jobs we are trained to do. Does the current CAD cause some stress, it most certainly does. However, let's work with the Technicans, who I believe are doing a tremendous job cleaning up some of the issues we have, and give them as much information we can so it gets fixed. Let's quit the cat fighting and move on. We have a great department and I for one do not want to be seen as complainers and bitchers. I'd rather be known for a department who was able to work through some very difficult issues and came out stronger.

Someone who is very proud of where they work.

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Postby 911Dude » Thu Nov 22, 2007 1:27 pm

To Tex4951:

It seems as though you just clicked the "I agree" tab without actually reading and comprehending the agreement to be able to post comments in this forum. I have taken liberty to attach it for you so you can read it and hopefully abide by it.

"You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening, sexually-oriented or any other material that may violate any applicable laws.
To Fallosk0:

I used to be proud to work for Minneapolis, but now I don't tell people that I work for Minneapolis when the subject comes up, or I quickly deflect the subject elsewhere. If I had a dime for everytime a neighbor or friend told me a story about calling call 911 and not getting any answer. That is embarassing! Or those same friends and neigbhors talking about calling for a squad to come out and having to wait hours for a response. That is embarassing. There are so many issues with our 911 system and Police department, that 'proud' is not an adjective I would use any longer to describe how I feel about being part of this system.

Our new CAD system is just part of the problem, but don't deny that it IS a problem, a big problem. The North Ambulance issue is just another sore spot. During our training for this CAD we were told handling the North Ambulance issue shouldn't be a big deal because we only get 6 runs for North a day. What ?????? Anyone can do a search for a 24-hour period and see that we handle on anywhere between 15-30 calls for North a day. We have handled our share of the North ambulance debacle - it's time for HCMC to step up to the plate and take over handling the North ambulance issue again. HCMC step up!
Back to Tex4951:

Your comment about working with people that you would normally cross the street to avoid? Don't ever speak for how we feel about each other!!! Ever!!! You are way off base on that one. I worked for another smaller agency and never even came close to creating the bond and friendships that I have made at Minneapolis. We are one big family!!! We are there for each other's weddings, funerals, graduations, births, birthdays, sobriety checks, doctors appointments, you name it - there is nobody I would rather work with. Due to the extreme nature of our job there are bound to be personnel issues that come up!! The people that survive in this job are the ones with strong personalities and eventually there is going to come a time when everyone that does this job will have it out with someone else. Those times are few and far in-between. Maybe you need to spend some time talking to people on the floor. Just because you would cross the street to avoid us --- do not ever make that assumption about us and how we feel about each other. If that's how you think we feel about each other, you are so out of touch with what actually goes on, that maybe you should move on. Maybe you should cross the street and keep on walking!!!

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MECC Operators and Dispatchers .. and Visicad

Postby MPLS911 » Thu Nov 22, 2007 4:53 pm

I am what the Ivory Tower denizens call an FTE. I am not a valued employee nor a person - I am a Full Time Equivalent. As a member of this lowly position I am fully qualified and capable of performing as a call taker, channel 7 operator, police dispatcher, and as a fire dispatcher. My gosh, I can even fill in for a supervisor !!!

Along with the rest of MECC's FTEs (and part timers) I "make it happen" for our community, Mpls Fire Dept., and the Mpls Police Dept. each and every day. I do this even though I have to use a multi-million dollar Visicad that is not suitable for use in dispatching. Visicad is slow, locks up, and causes me physical pain, along with the stress and anxiety I suffer waiting for this rich system to catch up with me.

And yet our operations manager has said I am too stupid to learn. I'm also disgruntled, too lazy to think, and incompetent.

Please lead us !!!! Please lead us by positive example. Work a call taker or dispatch position for a full 8.25 hours. Please show me the error of my ways. Can you do that ??

And when you find it necessary to cross the street to avoid an FTE, will you also demonstrate your ability to walk on water ?

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Postby HennepinEMS440 » Thu Nov 22, 2007 7:40 pm

Sorry 911Dude, but that's not an option. It's also not a Hennepin EMS issue to solve.

I understand why you would lump EMS agencies together, but it would be no different than if an MPD dispatcher had to middle man calls for St. Paul PD. Sure, it may work - but it muddies the water in more ways than I care to explain here. Since there appears to be such a concern about "inferior medical dispatching" for that piece of geography, why would you want to have another agency play middle man and possibly slow it down more?

I'm sure we could pick up the phone just like you do, but the relationship is between Minneapolis and North Ambulance - the primary and secondary PSAP. Hennepin EMS is not part of that business relationship, nor should it be.

You want to blame something for the issue, blame Minnesota State statute 144E.06 that created primary ambulance service areas that don't follow municipal or county boundaries.

Still, this assumes there is an actual problem, and there isn't. Primary 9-1-1 PSAP's have to pick up the phone each and every day across Minnesota and call an EMS Dispatch Center or Secondary PSAP with a call, and then has to be entered into a different CAD system. So why is it inferior in Minneapolis?

BTW - they told you 16 calls a day on average in training, I was there.

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Postby 911Dude » Thu Nov 22, 2007 8:23 pm

BTW - They must have corrected their information by the time you sat in class. The trainers went through the first few classes telling them that it was only 6 calls a day for North. A dispatcher researched that fact and went into class and corrected them.

If the service for the people of North Minneapolis really has not changed, that's a sad statement - but if this is the same level of service that they got before MECC took over handling their calls, that's fine. BUT, we should be compensated somehow for handling the extra calls for them - not monetarily, but with more personnel.

One 'event' for North ambulance isn't just one phone call. The operator transfers the caller over to PAI, enters the call so the fire dispatcher can also call North ambulance. The fire dispatcher calls North, then if the police are also going on the event the fire dispatcher calls them back to advise if it's Code4 or not, but if we don't call them fast enough they call us back to ask if it's Code4, and when it's not Code4 at that time we have to call them one more time when the scene finally is Code4. Dealing with North for one event can mean talking to them on the phone anywhere from one to 4 times for a single event. We do not have the staffing for that. We didn't have the staffing for that before Visi, now we most certainly do not have the staffing since having lost so many people.

Once North finally goes live with the system, that will solve one of our problems at MECC, and the North issue is a minor one compared to the disaster at police dispatch. I hear that you (HCMC guy) like it as a system for EMS, but it is not a good system for police - and it is not a good system for agencies that need interoperability. At least it's not that system yet. Maybe in a few years when they have all the patches working and the rest of the bugs fixed and we are on the 20th version/upgrade of it, maybe then it will be a good system for a city this size.

For anyone not from MECC reading this forum, if your agency is considering installing this VisiCad system from TriTech - please go visit an agency that has it installed and is currently working with it. Going to San Diego to check it out is not going to cut it. There were a few of us that were invited to San Diego to check out the system and run some tests on it - but playing Monday morning quarterback, that was a mistake to put so much faith in what they were saying the system "could" do. If your agency is considering installing it, please just go sit with an operator or a dispatcher to see how the system really works. Make an educated decision. I'm not a technical guy, but when our own Techs advise the Director not to buy this program that should have been a red flag.

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Postby HennepinEMS440 » Thu Nov 22, 2007 9:11 pm

911Dude...I certainly can't speak for your workload or staffing. If that's the issue, then let's say thats the issue.

As for choosing VisiCAD. I have to agree with you. When choosing any CAD system, it should be given due diligence.

I believe Minneapolis did just that. I was with Minneapolis staff when they made such visits in Texas, Arizona and San Diego. I know there was MECC calltaker and dispatch staff there. I was also there when the final decision was made after a long RFP process. We thoroughly and systematically looked at the top 3 CAD candidates - Tritech, Integraph and New World.

The MECC technicians that I know (and I think I know them all), were all there too. And we had consensus.

I'm certainly not interested in an electronic argument. I don't work for Minneapolis and will not pretend to know anything about human resource issues at MECC. But since we have newspaper reporters posting in this forum, and then writing stories filled with misleading information for the public, I want the truth in print somewhere.

If you want to come over to Hennepin EMS Communications to visit, observe and chat, the door is always open. I would be happy to show you how we play telephone with the other dispatch centers - just like you describe MECC has to do with North right now. It's an operational norm that occurs everyday between Hennepin EMS and our PSAPs outside of MECC. And there's nothing inferior about it.

- Chris Kummer
Last edited by HennepinEMS440 on Fri Nov 23, 2007 3:20 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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It's not that serious

Postby ajonesgradyssc » Mon Nov 26, 2007 12:03 pm

From my previous posting:
I have to agree with Todd Allen, hands down. Especially:

"Unfortunately, many dispatch centers do not consult the users. The people that are often making the decisions, approving of the product demonstrations have (sorry to say) no idea what the dispatchers need or do. The system that you have has been seen, has been tested and has been approved by your "powers that be". It is easy to put the blame on others than to take responsibility for ones own actions."

"I am sorry to hear if your site is having problems, but it is not the CAD, it is your center. Poor management, lack of training to dispatchers, short staffing, etc.. There is not a CAD out there that can fix these issues."

I have worked with many CAD systems, and TriTech, VisiCAD Command in my opinion, is the best. Of course again, this is my opinion and my paradigm based on my user agencies needs (I have worked with multiple).
But in light of recent events, let me elaborate on a few things.
I have 13 years experience providing communications, customer service, and support services to various police, fire, EMS, and other public safety agencies. I have worked with Interact, Tritech VisiCad Command, Compudyne/Tiburon 2000, Extensity/GEAC Enroute, Zoll Data RightCad/Rescuenet, Northup-Grumman, Motorola PinTrak, EDS, and Positron. I am currently a communications Supervising System Status Controller (dispatcher) in the EMS communications/control center of the largest hospital based EMS agency in the nation, and the largest public hospital in the Southeast with a renowned Burn Unit, Level 1 Trauma Center, and state Poison Control Center; Grady Health System EMS in Atlanta, GA… where we dispatch fleet of 35 ALS, and 2 Neonatal-Angel’s, Bike Medics, and Tactical Medics ambulances in a 9-1-1 zone inside the mere 174 Sq. miles of the city limits of Atlanta, Fulton County (exclusive provider); responding to more than 100,000 calls annually. We do no IFT or NET, nor do we provide venue coverage.

In 2003 the county gave up dispatch operations to our newly started communications and control center (CAC). They took the 9-1-1 calls and used AMPDS to triage the call on their Interact CAD and it was linked to our “Ivory Tower” (literally on the 11th floor overlooking Underground Atlanta, Midtown, and Buckhead) via T1 to our CAD. We chose VisiCAD because of its capabilities with EMS dispatch that are 2nd to none. When the county dispatched, they used zones (beats) to allocate resources and the CAD recommended the closest unit. Our system, utilizing AVL/GPS and street-corner posting uses dispatcher training and judgment. Our response compliance went from 50% to 80% immediately when we took over. Combined with more training, more accountability, and more quality improvement processes, we are now holding in the 90% percentile on perhaps one of the most rigorous high performance EMS contracts in the nation, shying away from a 12:59 or 10:59 life-threatening emergency response contract time to 7:59. Our average response time is just under 6 minutes and only have 1st responder fire accompaniment on Echo and Delta level calls (and we still get to the scene faster than the FD).

In June of this year, rather than the City of Atlanta answering the 9-1-1 calls at their police department, transferring them to the county to triage and then to us to dispatch, the COA transfers the 9-1-1 calls directly to us. We increased our staff, double what the county was providing, and while our goal was to answer calls within 15-seconds 90% of the time, we do it in less than 10-seconds, 94% of the time – and we don’t have ACD. Part of our response time includes the call-taking process as we quick-start/pre-alert ambulances to calls as soon as we have an address. While the unit is starting toward an incident location non-emergency, the call is being triaged using AMPDS ProQA (works seamlessly with VisiCAD). Once the determinant is complete, the chief complaint and call priority automatically updates and upgrades the incident and unit via MST and pager (the SSC will provide verbal confirmation of receipt). We are doing better because we were provided with a tool and I myself have invested the blood, sweat, and tears, to do a good job and train everyone how to use what we have to the best of our ability. I do it because I am passionate about my career and job, and because patient care is my pinnacle priority. This is why we all should be here. As well, the team of management in place made it important to put those processes in place that would make the greatest impact on the community, not for the sake of the contract, but for the constituents. Some polices and procedures aren’t flawless, make no mistake, but they are protocols nevertheless.

There isn’t a CAD in this world that won’t crash, there isn’t always a CAD that will provide the integration needed to sustain multi-jurisdictional user agencies and different types of public safety groups with their own codes, response configurations, priorities and services obligations, big or small. I have worked PD channels with as many as 50 units doing special details and traffic stops, ice storms with multiple TAC channels running 100s of incidents simultaneously; but the key was a management team that had simultaneous incident plans, contingency plans, emergency response plans, training programs… in place to effectively enhance the capabilities of their human capital when they needed it most..

HennepinEMS440 has an excellent understanding and makes a lot of good points; and it sounds like your agency is awesome.

Inter-agency cooperation and collaboration. The EMD workload has been decreased and the radio traffic has dropped since implementing mobile data computers in the field. We are 60% silent dispatch now.

Closest car dispatching, whether ambulance, fire apparatus or squad, has many configuration elements. Each unit and personnel in VisiCAD has attached capabilities. If any of the configuration is wrong, it effects recommendations. That is not the fault of any CAD system. The CAD Administrator has the ability to control configurations.

How much is as designed by configuration? Just because the dispatcher does not agree with the recommendation does not mean that the agency doesn't want it that way by policy. I have certain policy in place and I know my staff do not 100% agree, but that's not a reason to not follow the recommendation and blame the CAD for a bad recommendation. This is also not the fault of any CAD system.

My suggestion is for those who have issues, problems, and concerns – bring solutions to the table, not just complaints. The CAD can do anything you want it to, or not do what you don’t want it to do. Talk to the CAD Administrator within the agency and determine the capabilities and turn on or off what is causing the problems. There are use manuals... if you really want to know how things work, find the book and read it; I did. And now that I understand it more, I can now train others how to use it to their advantage. Yes, there are a lot of bells and whistles, things you will learn to use all the time, and things like SNAP shot or GIS playback that you have no need for. But having many options allows the individual to perform their duties to the best of their abilities. If you don’t like dragging and dropping, use the command line, etc. As well, you must understand that as a user, as horrible as it sounds, management does often have other goals in mind and data manipulation, retrieval, and even budget can seemingly overpower “our” needs. But it isn’t the end of the world.

Someone pointed out service issues. While our contract provides services to the City of Atlanta, Fulton County oversees 3 zones as mandated by the State, the other 2 being North and South Fulton County. They have Rural-Metro as their ambulance provider. It’s not a matter of inferior services; I believe that all bureaus do the best they have with their resources under sometimes extenuating circumstances and challenges that include management practices, morale issues, funding, staffing, etc.. We too have helped the North and South through mutual aid, but it’s because that is what’s right! If someone needs help, does it matter than our ambulance responded rather than the zone provider? If service issues are compromising patient care, there are mediums for addressing this. Recently, because of the job the county government has been doing, the unincorporated areas have formed cities. When done, there will be essentially, no county EMS oversite or Fire or Police department. Oversite will go to the new cities who have for years complained about the counties management inadequacies – so now they have it. We will see how they do. As for us, the COA looks at taking measures to integrate our PSAPS, another CITIZEN and PATIENT CARE priority. But the point is, these other areas found a solution to their public safety “nightmare”. They took matters into their own hands.

For anyone, once you stop believing in your management team to the point that you can’t follow nor support their mission, you should leave. Changing your attitude means changing your perception and many of us hated the changes anyway so we already have a mental block when it came to adapting to I (we slept through training, didn’t attend training, or weren’t paying attention). Many things you feel don’t work well because you haven’t tried it (so how do you know it doesn’t work). If it really doesn’t… then bravo for trying, now do something about it. Stress comes from trying to control things we don’t have control over. Either adapt, accept, or move on… because I am sure the complaints of the few don’t outweigh what is going right and the only thing you are doing is drawing more negativity to the “cause.” That behavior is self destructive and one way or another, you will be held accountable for your actions and attitude (which you do have control over). Use what controls you do have and stick to what is important. Be committed, be loyal and care! Don’t feel trapped. No good can come of you being so bitter about the CAD that you can’t function. That’s how people get hurt. Develop your skills, seek out those who can do it well and learn from them.

Good luck.

Andre Jones
AMR Atlanta Alt SSC Spv

Disclosure: These thoughts and ideas and opinions are all my own and I am no way speaking on the behalf of whom I work for.

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Postby angel1 » Fri Nov 30, 2007 11:03 am

There seems to be 3 camps with Tri Tech.
1. Those who actually have to use the system and hate it
2. The "team players" better known as brown nosers by the rest of us, who defend the system no matter how bad it gets.
3. Those who picked the system and don't have to use it, but will defend their decision at all costs.

Lately though, number 2 has even been grumbling under their breath.

We were told that our powers that be have identified 40 problems which need fixing, but Tri Tech is too busy with their newest sale to help us. They said to pick 3 problems and they would try to get to it. Nice huh.
Meanwhile, the system continues to have a multitude of problems ranging from crashing or freezing, showing officers at different locations depending on the screen, warrant hits not coming back, AVL not working, etc.

All that is bad enough, but the system is too labor intensive. Too many steps to accomplish a simple thing. If you have 10 cars to track and take care of it may not be too bad for you, but try dealing with all the problems when you have between 50 and 100.

Anyone need a job? Dallas is hiring a ton of dispatchers because we can't keep anyone for very long.

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Postby MPLS911 » Fri Nov 30, 2007 11:17 am


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Sooo Sick and Tired

Postby Ang » Fri Nov 30, 2007 5:35 pm

Let me begin by saying I and many other 911 operators and dispatchers don't need to hear about how much EMS personnel thinks that Visi-catastrophe is great for us all. Give me a break. Not only do I know that you EMS personnel do a good job but I don't doubt that it is a fantastic system for you. That is what it was made for. But for you to sit and tell us about our job that you know nothing about makes me sick. To say that we are incompetent complainers is a slap in the face. We do our share of working hard doing our part to save lives every single day. Since Visi-disaster our job has gotten 100 times harder. Not due to lack of training, but lack of a halfway decent CAD system. We are all intelligent able minded people who were trained in doing one of the hardest jobs there is so believe me, learning how to use VisiCAD, oh I mean Visi-catastrophe is easy as making pie. It's not operator error but system flaws causing the problEMS. Information disappearing, ect screens never popping up, CAD going down, locations not geo verifying that should, extra typing and mousing that wasn't previously required. I could go on for years. Myself, other employees and the techs see it everyday. Don't get me started on the north ambulance issue. It makes me sick, yes sick!! That someone has the nerve to say it's acceptable that we have to relay every ambulance and code four time to them by phone. That is not! Acceptable when every other part of the city has immediate service. Not only that but pre Visi-disaster the information went directly to north ambulance when a call was entered for service so Visi-disaster is clearly a 4 million dollar downgrade. There are far too many complaints about the system for us to be labeled as a few ungrateful whiners. If approximately 4 out of 40 people like it, it's obvious where the problem lies. For those of you that have a problem with our opinions on here, stop reading them! Thats what blogging is all about. We are well within our legal rights. Remember freedom of speech. I have a friend that is a lawyer who I confided in who concurred. That anyone attempt to stop us from voicing our opinions could be construed as harassment.

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Postby dmadmin » Sat Dec 01, 2007 12:02 am

It's been an interesting discussion, but now it's time to move on. I've locked this topic. If you have further VisiCAD discussion, start another topic--but try to keep it positive.

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