Many public safety agencies frequently experience strains on staffing and operational resources. As the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation continues to evolve, public safety agencies are finding they must tailor their response to fit an entirely new set of priorities within their community. In a pandemic situation, resources are likely to be stretched even further – call volumes increase, and staff could become sick or quarantined and unable to work. Public safety agencies will need to keep up with an increased demand on services while also keeping law enforcement personnel and the community safe during these unprecedented times.

Below are a few examples of how agencies are leveraging their dispatch systems and other technology to help law enforcement maintain efficiency and optimize operations during a crisis.

Tracking new categories and screening incoming calls

  • Rules within dispatch systems are being set up to help track new categories, including one for COVID-19 cases. These are based on nature codes or comments containing keywords such as “COVID,” “corona” or “fever.” An agency’s dispatch administrator can then determine the best approach for their specific region. General data of COVID-19 cases can be emailed to a centralized command post for more efficient tracking.
  • Agencies are using their computer aided dispatch (CAD) to screen incoming calls. By creating new standard operating procedures, the agencies are clarifying which questions need to be asked and what steps responders should take when responding to calls. This type of proactive screening ensures responders have the situational awareness they need when responding to a call for help. Using their mobile systems to access CAD makes communicating these new SOPs to first responders easier.

Strengthening locational data to protect and alert responders

  • Setting location notes alert telecommunicators and first responders that a call site has had prior COVID-19 positive patients or if a person is in isolation. This results in telecommunicators being able to see if 911 callers are currently near these other cases, and responders knowing if calls they’re responding to are at or near these locations.
  • They are also looking at people and locations that have been identified as having the coronavirus and then looking back at call for service data to identify first responders who may have interacted with that person or location.  From there, they are notifying any personnel and taking appropriate measures to ensure the first responder is healthy and taking appropriate precautions with the community and with other agency personnel.
  • Through their CAD, agencies are utilizing geofences and markers to identify hotspots within a specific region in their jurisdiction which they can share with response teams, including dispatch, emergency operations centers and hospitals.
  • Utilizing expiration dates for specific locations, such as local health departments, are providing information on suspected or confirmed COVID addresses. These notes are being configured to ensure responders are fully informed when interacting with citizens at these locations.

Adjusting response protocol

  • Response plans are being updated in an agency’s CAD to reflect changes in recommendation protocols, for example, whether to send fewer personnel or refer callers to telemedicine options. Dispatch levels are used to initiate upgraded emergency response plans during periods of heightened threats or disaster situations.
  • Multiple dispatch levels within each response plan are being enabled with a simple command to automatically activate by date and time. Once the event or crisis is over, the original response plan is enabled.

With many communities facing challenges now and likely into the weeks ahead, public safety agencies are working on plans specific to a community’s needs. While technology by itself cannot stop the spread of COVID-19, agencies are using it as just one lever in their arsenal of tools to optimize operations and keep your responders and community safe.