On April 5, Colorado’s first regional computer-aided dispatch (CAD) hub launched and quickly showed its benefit when a structure fire occurred only hours after the new system went live. Firefighters were called to a townhome fire in unincorporated Adams County just inside the jurisdictional boundaries of North Metro Fire Rescue District. With the new centralized 911 dispatching system, the closest fire engines, which included North Metro Fire, Thornton Fire and South Adams County Fire, were simultaneously dispatched to the fire, reducing the response time of the neighboring fire departments by over two minutes. No one was home when the fire started, but firefighters were able to rescue the homeowner’s dog and extinguish the fire before it spread to other townhomes.
Tuesday’s fire exemplified a key benefit the integrated dispatching hub provides communities and emergency response agencies. Currently, all 911 emergency communication centers utilize CAD systems to deploy resources to an emergency. However, typically one center’s CAD system can’t communicate in real-time with a CAD system at another center—until now.
With the launch of the regional 911 dispatching hub, Thornton Emergency Communication Center’s CAD system is now seamlessly connected to Adams County Communication Center’s CAD system, which serves North Metro Fire, Adams County Fire Rescue, Brighton Fire Rescue District and South Adams County Fire Department. In the next three months, the hub will also connect Westminster Fire Department’s Emergency Communications Center and Broomfield Public Safety Communications Center, followed by Federal Heights later in 2022.
Advantages of a Regional 911 Hub
Across the State of Colorado, many fire departments have areas in their jurisdiction that are geographically closer to a fire station in a neighboring jurisdiction. The regional 911 dispatching hub, built by Emerging Digital Concepts, connects the dispatching systems for each fire department, so the closest emergency response units are automatically dispatched to an incident regardless of jurisdictional boundaries. No longer will there be a two-to-three-minute delay that originally existed when a dispatcher would have to manually request neighboring resources via radio or phone to respond to an emergency based on station location. Not only would the manual process cause a delay in response time, but it also was flawed because dispatchers had no way of knowing if neighboring emergency resources were available and in close proximity to the incident.
“The initial launch of this regional dispatching hub is a huge step forward for emergency services. Whether we are responding to a critical medical call or a large incident, such as a structure fire, every second counts in saving someone’s life or their property. Connecting our 911 dispatching systems automatically will have a significant impact on the outcomes for our community members,” said North Metro Fire Chief David Ramos.
“Neighboring fire departments frequently respond to emergency calls together, especially on large-scale and higher risk emergencies. We already train together, plan together and respond together. Launching this integrated 911 hub is a key piece for improving emergency response in our area and ensuring essential emergency resources are on scene as quickly as possible, regardless of what department they represent,” said Thornton Fire Chief Gordie Olson.
The fire chiefs also believe the regional hub has the capability to be a beneficial tool for emergency managers and incident commanders during large-scale, multi-agency emergencies.
“The more agencies we can connect to this centralized dispatching hub, the better off all of us will be, especially our residents. During larger incidents, such as the Marshall Fire, it can be challenging to know precisely where emergency units are located from neighboring agencies because the dispatching systems aren’t integrated. Utilizing a regional 911 dispatching hub will allow incident leaders to visually see where units are in real time, and first responders in the field will have a better tool to connect with one another to maximize resources and effectiveness. This system was designed to support fire departments, but it also has the capability to support law enforcement agencies to further optimize and manage emergency resources during multi-agency incidents,” said Ramos.
The creation of the regional hub has been a multi-agency project in development for several years. Funding for the project came primarily from grants, including an Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) grant that provided $1 million, aimed at building a scalable tool that can be phased in as a regional resource across multiple metropolitan counties. Additionally, another $500,000 was invested by the participating agencies whose CAD systems will be integrated this year. The governance board for the regional CAD-to-CAD project hopes to expand the 911 hub’s impact by connecting to more agencies in the area and providing a more robust and enhanced emergency response for communities.
“We are excited to be a part of this integration project and have already seen success for Westminster in the testing phase. The regionalized sharing of fire and EMS resources will result in much improved service to our communities and enhance safety for first responders,” said Westminster Fire Chief Doug Hall.