The Tennessee Highway Patrol has named Beverly Bearden (right) as its Dispatcher of the Year for 2010 for her calm handling of a hit-and-run accident that involved a trooper, and also honored other dispatchers for district-level awards. The awards included veterans, rookies and one posthumous award. In Bearden’s case, she was on-duty when a trooper was struck and injured by a hit-and-run driver on last November. “Dispatcher Bearden remained calm and focused throughout the ordeal,” the Highway Patrol said in a press release. Bearden notified THP Command and Highway Patrol units, and alerted local law enforcement agencies that the trooper was enroute to the hospital. “Dispatcher Bearden kept everyone updated on his condition throughout the remainder of her shift.” Richard Dorning is a 34-year veteran and was honored for the Lawrenceburg district office. “Dispatcher Dorning has been steady in the radio room by providing gentle guidance as incidents begin to unfold and lives hang in the balance,” the agency said. Dispatcher Jonathan Isleman was a 12-year veteran of the Highway Patrol when last year he lost his fight with cancer. “Dispatcher Isleman had a desire to exceed all expectations and set a positive example for his co-workers. He even dispatched from his hospital bed,” the agency said. Read about all the honorees here. [click to continue…]
A Pennsylvania appeals court has reversed a lower court’s decision on whether incident locations are part of “time response logs,” and has ordered York County to release cross-streets or addresses in response to a request from a newspaper reporter for response time information. The court’s decision hung on the county’s dependence on a National Emergency Number Association (NENA) definition of “time response log,” and the state legislature’s intent when it passed a Right to Know Law (RtKL) in 2008. The state was among the first to strictly limit release of information from 911 comm centers, including logging tapes of calls, names, addresses and other personal information, both to provide privacy for crime victims and witnesses, but also to stem growing identify theft incidents. Shortly after the RtKL was signed by the governor, a reporter for The York Daily Record asked the county for three months of response time information to help determine the efficiency of emergency responses. However, 911 director Cindy Dietz invoked the state law to keep incident locations private, but did release incident times—call received, dispatched, unit enroute, arrived, unit available. The newspaper appealed and a Common Pleas court agreed that the nationally-accepted definition of “time response log” did not include locations. However, now the three-judge appeals panel has overturned that decision, saying NENA’s post-legislative definition does not take the place of the law’s original intent. In fact, the court noted that NENA’s own “Master Glossary of 9-1-1 Terminology” does not define the term. [click to continue…]
After the small plane he was flying in crashed into a Tippacanoe County (Ind.) corn field, Tom Williams dialed 911 and reached sheriff’s dispatcher Lisa Stewart. But Williams had no idea where he was and couldn’t see any landmarks to pinpoint his location. The county’s 911 system could only locate the receiving cellular tower, and showed the location as somewhere near the Tippacanoe River. Williams’ two friends were trapped and bleeding inside the plane, so Stewart made a decision—she instructed Williams to start walking across the snowy field to find an address, highway or person who could give a location where emergency units could respond. It took Williams 11 minutes of walking to find a man working in a barn, all the time talking to Stewart on the phone. Meanwhile, dispatcher Susan Crecelius was radioing units in the field to reach Williams. Both victims in the plane were taken to hospitals in serious condition. Read more about the incident here, listen to the 911 call (below) and watch a video after the break. [click to continue…]
A woman who was witnessing a robbery on a Seattle (Wash.) bus did the right thing—she used her cellular phone to dial 911 and clearly tell the dispatcher she was reporting “a theft and robbery on a bus.” However, King County sheriff’s officials say that the woman and another 911 caller were unclear about what was happening, and that’s why a deputy wasn’t dispatched to the incident. Now a KOMO-TV reporter obtained the logging tape of the 911 call from the woman, and it reveals the dispatcher explained to the witness,”You cannot report a theft that did not occur to you. The person who the items were stolen from has to report this.” The woman then called the bus dispatcher and eventually Seattle police, who responded to the location and spoke to the victim. Read more about the incident here, and watch a video news report after the break. Update: A sheriff’s spokesperson says the dispatcher had just been released from six months of training, and that he misunderstood the caller who he said spoke in the past tense. Read the sheriff’s department explanation here. [click to continue…]
A selection of witnesses representing various interests testified before a U.S. Senate committee last Wednesday on the best way to construct a nationwide wireless network for public safety agencies. The Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation is chaired by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who has introduced legislation to directly assign the D Block spectrum directly to public safety, a plan that would override existing legislation requiring the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to auction the spectrum to a commercial company. The witnesses included Raymond Kelly, police commissioner of New York City, Jack Markell, governor of Delaware, Al Gillespie, chief of the North Las Vegas fire department, and Joe Hanna, former president of APCO and now a consultant. Several witnesses invoked the advanced wireless technology available to teenagers, and lamented that police officers and firefighters don’t have the same capabilities. [click to continue…]
Companies that provide Internet-based telecommunications relay services (TRS) must adhere to all the applicable federal regulations, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is warning, including providing location-identifying information about the caller. The Commission issues its “Enforcement Advisory” on Wednesday as a reminder of the requirements and of the enforcement actions and fines that could result for violations. “The purpose of (the regulations) is to ensure that individuals with hearing or speech disabilities who use Internet-based TRS receive 911 service that is comparable to that received by traditional telephone network TRS users,” the FCC wrote in the advisory. It emphasized that the requirements apply, “regardless of the equipment or software used by consumers seeking emergency assistance via Internet-based TRS.” Callers might use TRS or third-party software, or the subscriber’s own software to make the calls, the FCC noted. Download (pdf) the FCC’s advisory here.
In the middle of the night, talking to a distraught 19 year-old man who had called 911, and listening to an incredible story, a Catawba County (NC) sheriff’s dispatcher did everything right. She was composed, she was focused and she arranged the safe surrender of a man who admitted to killing and mutilating another man during a gay sex encounter. The dispatcher, who hasn’t been named, took every word of Michael Anderson’s story in stride. She told him to put down the gun that he was still holding, and told him she was sending him help. “I’m sorry ma’am, but the ax is inside his stomach,” the man said at one point. The dispatcher repeatedly asked the man for assurance that he wasn’t holding any weapons, and Anderson said he was not. She instructed him to sit in a chair in the room nearest the front door and, when he began to feel panicked, she asked him to take some deep breaths to calm down. The tape ends before deputies arrived, but Anderson was safely taken into custody, and is now charged with murder. Read the story and listen to the amazing logging tape of the 911 call here.
Officials of the New South Wales (Australia) ambulance service say that all four of their comm centers are back on-line after a virus infected the computer-aided dispatch system used to handle incidents. Officials did not say how the virus was introduced into the systems, including the center that handles Sydney, or which strain was involved. The first symptoms were noted Saturday afternoon, and dispatchers began handling incidents with pen and paper and dispatching by telephone. Officials said that no incidents were adversely affected by the outage while technicians swept the computers to remove the virus. However, some political officials are questioning how the computer infection occurred and if any lives were put in danger. The ambulance service’s paramedics have recently been protesting staffing cutbacks, and complain of bullying and intimidation by supervisors. They also complain that computer prioritization of incidents is inefficient, and frequently makes mistakes that puts lives in danger.
After handling a telephone call that sounded authentic but which turned out to be maliciously false, a veteran Portage (Wisc.) dispatcher was relieved that no one was injured, but also angry that someone would fabricate such a dangerous story. Marie Darling-Ellis was working last Sept. when she answered a call purportedly from an insurance call center in Texas. A male said he received a call from a Portage woman who had been shot along with her baby. The woman then came on the line, said her baby was dead and that she had been locked in a basement. Darling-Ellis talked to the woman and alerted a assistant police chief who was in an adjacent office. Eventually the gunman came on the line and threatened to shoot any officers he saw at the house. Indeed, police did respond and after three hours entered the house to find it empty, and determined the residents were not involved with the telephone call. The callers correctly identified the house and the resident’s names, making the call sound authentic. Police are working with the FBI to identify the source of the calls, and have several leads. Read about how Marie Darling-Ellis handled the call here, and more about the incident here.
An investigation by the Darke County (Ohio) sheriff has concluded that a dispatcher selected the wrong jurisdiction from a drop-down menu in the computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system, and then dispatched EMS units to the wrong location for a report of a 9 year-old who wasn’t breathing. Eight minutes passed until the error was noticed, and by the time medics arrived at the correct location, the youth was dead. Sheriff Toby Spencer said 15-year veteran dispatcher Christina Lennon confirmed the address with the caller but not the jurisdiction. In this case, the incident was at 120 E. Cross St. in Palestine, but Lennon selected the town of Ansonia, which has an identical address. Spencer also noted that the E911 and CAD systems are separate, so the caller’s ANI/ALI information was not automatically transferred to CAD. He said Lennon was suspended for three days without pay and ordered to undergo re-training. Another seven days of suspension were withheld on the condition she not have any other violations within the next six months. The sheriff’s office and Lennon has personally apologized to the family, Spencer said. The county coroner cannot say if the delay contributed to the boy’s death. Read more about the incident here.
A major technology deadline for public safety radio communications is approaching, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken the initiative to educate affected agencies with a recent workshop on narrowbanding regulations. According to surveys, at least 16% of the 77,000 public safety licensees affected by the regulations weren’t of the requirements. Another 15% said they knew of the required changes, but had no current plans to upgrade their radio system. Only 25% said they were already compliant with the narrowbanding mandate. The FCC has posted a video of the two-hour public session that included officials from the FCC, Department of Homeland Security, National Public Safety Telecommunications Council and Motorola. The FCC has mandated that users of VHF/UHF frequencies convert them to narrower channels by Jan. 1, 2013. Find links to the presentation materials here, and watch the video after the break. [click to continue…]
Despite some mitigating circumstances, a New Jersey judge has sentenced a former Dover (NJ) police dispatcher to four years in prison for disclosing confidential information to his relatives. In a plea deal, Manny Santana III, 39, admitted giving out the name of a crime witness, several criminal histories and vehicle registrations over his six years on the job. He also admitted improperly funneling business to a tow company and receiving discounted services in exchange. Morris County prosecutor Robert Bianchi said, “This significant sentence should serve to send the message that public officials will be harshly dealt with when they violate their obligations to the public.” Bianchi said no criminal investigations were jeopardized by Santana’s actions, so the judge allowed parole within two years. In exchange for his guilty plea, Santana was charged with only a single count of official misconduct. He resigned last year after being charged. Read more about the plea deal here.
A nationally-recognized standards group has given final approval to a set of minimum training requirements for public safety telecommunicators, as researched and written by the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO). The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) was founded in 1918 to bring order to a wide range of technical and procedural guidelines, intended to publicize and distribute best practices in an industry. In this case, APCO began working on minimum training standards in 1995 as Project 33. Various versions of the committee’s standard have been posted previously, but ANSI approval gives it more authority and wider distribution. Of the document’s 28 pages, nine are taken up with acknowledgements introduction. The remainder of the standard covers agency responsibilities, organizational integrity, professional competence, a dispatcher’s general knowledge and skills, along with tools, equipment and technology. There are then separate sections for calltaker and each type of dispatcher—law enforcement, fire and EMS. The document does not set exact policies and procedures, or even a minimum number or hours of training. Instead, the standard sets more general requirements. For example, it states that, “The Agency shall establish no less than these minimum training requirements while complying with all local, state, and federal laws.” In fact, some states have no minimum training standards for dispatchers. In a press release, APCO said the standard is based on research compiled from occupational analysis workshops. “Over 100 high-performing telecommunicators contributed to these workshops representing various agencies,” APCO said. Download (pdf) the new standard here.
The University of Maryland is ready to begin field-testing a smartphone application that will allow students to connect with campus police dispatchers, send them audio and video of an incident, and to have all that information sent directly to patrol cars in the field. Named “V911,” the app is part of a larger set of applications called MyeVyu that are tied together with a wide-area Wi-Fi (WiMAX) network, and which offer various social networking, scheduling, tracking and information features for the campus community. The V911 app was originally developed by the university’s graduate computer science team almost three years ago, but was stalled because of funding. Now the university plans a limited test of the app, and hopes to roll it out to all students this fall. In an emergency, a student would press a button displayed in the app, and would be connected by one of the campus’ 3,500 Wi-Fi base stations to the campus police comm center. Audio and video would be streamed to dispatcher, who could immediately send the information to the patrol car laptops of officers. UM police chief Kenneth Krouse has said of the app, “Everyone who is concerned with security and well-being stands to benefit.” Read about the field testing here.
The Weld County (Colo.) Sheriff’s Office has issued its recommendations after the line-of-duty death of Dep. Sam Brownlee last November at the end of a vehicle pursuit, saying there were issues of command, communications, joint-agency operations and arrest techniques. Brownlee was shot with his own .45-cal. duty weapon as he and several other officers attempted to handcuff a suspect who had taken a relative’s vehicle after making suicidal threats. The suspect was then shot and killed by fellow officers. The incident began in Fort Morgan, and officers from that city and Morgan County deputies initially pursued the vehicle towards the city of Greeley. The suspect’s identify was known, and no weapons had been seen. Weld County deputies joined the pursuit when the vehicle crossed into their jurisdiction, and later state troopers, Evans, Greeley and Kersey PD officers joined the chase. As the suspect hit speeds up to 100 mph, the initial reason for the chase changed as dispatchers passed along the details. At one point, a dispatcher typed into CAD, “**Susp armed & Dangerous***Armed Robbery occurred in Morgan, 107 mph.” One hour and 22 minutes into the pursuit, the suspect’s vehicle gave out, and officers approached the vehicle and managed to drag the suspect from the vehicle. However, the report speculates that Brownlee may have not secured his pistol before engaging the suspect with other officers. The suspect grabbed Brownlee’s gun and fired three times, fatally injuring Brownlee. Download (pdf) the sheriff’s after-action report here, and read more about the incident here.