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Advancements in Dispatch Technology and the Optimized Workflow

Author: David Alonzi, Harris Corporation

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2016-01-08
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The current state of emergency response typically has people thinking of police officers, firefighters, and EMTs, and while each one deserves the acclaim they receive, other less visible public servants play an equally integral role in the emergency response process. Public safety dispatchers and call-takers play a critical, time-sensitive role in managing urgent situations. Emergencies and their response require effective tools for safe and efficient operations. The consolidation of many dispatch centers, coupled with the continuous progression of technology and growing population rates, makes the job of the emergency dispatcher increasingly significant and complex. Public safety will always be a societal focal point and concern; while consideration for continuous improvement in dispatch capabilities is critical to response rates and successes, technology will play an important role.

One common complaint among dispatch professionals is that their workflow is not as manageable as they would like it to be and that their workstations can be difficult to navigate. Technology may promise new solutions but can be daunting and appear to create an even more complex workspace. Multiple screens, keyboards, mice, computer towers and wires make an area that should be conducive to simple, quick actions, overcomplicated and difficult to manage. With the current state of dispatch technology progressing rapidly, organizations should take advantage of a platform designed specifically to streamline workflow and eliminate complexity. New technology exists that eliminates the need for multiple and possibly redundant platforms allowing users to manage and prioritize information based on their personal preference and style of workflow - and display it in one, simple workflow that enables dispatchers to more simply make quick, accurate decisions. This will require an upgrade from the legacy dispatch console configurations, but will ease the process simply by putting the most pertinent information where it needs to be with user-friendly accessibility.

Emergency Procedure and Technology Advancements

When an emergency occurs, a call is placed to 9-1-1, and from that point, it is up the dispatcher to call for the appropriate resources. This processing of information while asking questions can often be difficult, as pulling information in a crisis can be impeded by communications problems of varying degrees. It’s left up to the dispatcher to deal with extraordinary circumstances to get the necessary resources to a specific location in a minimal amount of time. Equipping dispatchers with the ideal tools provides the best chance for a successfully handled emergency situation. Harmonious coordination and streamlined response are not just ways to improve the job functionality needed for dispatch; they are essential in responding optimally.

Some of the specific advancements in technology are a direct result of feedback received from dispatchers working in the field. The professionals understand what works best and what can be improved upon, learned firsthand while struggling with the increasing difficulties the job presents. In conducting research on the state of dispatch before upgrading their personal dispatch technology, representatives from Harris Corporation were able to glean the most relevant information from the dispatchers themselves. Some of their feedback included using high-performance hardware platforms for the consoles, and creating a platform that is expandable and future-proofed, providing easy access to call-taking and Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) functionality, and combining broadband and narrowband technology capabilities. All of this feedback, if incorporated, will result in more flexibility for dispatchers and organizations to choose a dispatch technology adaptable to future demand.

Other features coveted by industry professionals include an ergonomically sound design that dispatchers are comfortable handling and easy to learn a console design upgrade to something more efficient and modular, and support for multimedia. In today’s changing environment dispatchers want technology that makes their job smoother under pressure. These features show that dispatchers are seeking a simplification of the most important tools and controls needed to do the job successfully. All this adds up to having all pertinent information available to dispatchers allowing them to make quick, professional, decisions and react to any emergency confidently and with ease.

Despite the difficulties our current environment places on the role of a dispatcher, technology can lessen some of the daily job pressures. Current dispatchers need their technology to provide a workflow that maximizes productivity by allowing dispatchers to tailor their work environment to meet their ongoing and future needs. The interface, to be successful, needs to be customizable, and having a solution that allows the dispatcher to arrange their most utilized functions with a “friendly” interface will allow this to happen. The right technology solution will minimize distractions, and reduce the number of potential disruptors (monitors, mice and keyboards, etc.), and aid a dispatcher perform his or her duties successfully and efficiently.


David Alonzi is the Symphony Console Product Manager for Harris Corp. David has been designing and selling radio systems, radio consoles and E/9-1-1 networks throughout North America for over thirty years.

Image Above: Hennepin County 9-1-1 Dispatch Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Image via Winbourne Consulting, LLC (9-1-1 Magazine file photo).


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