Faster Emergency Systems

The city of Dayton updates its emergency response system with a new Y2K compliant upgrade

Faster Emergency Systems
In the small hours of a recent Sunday morning, while the citizens of Dayton slept peacefully in their beds, tension was in the air at the Dayton Safety Building. Twenty-eight highly trained computer technicians were standing by, ready to jump into action at a moments notice. At precisely 4 am, the computer system that controls the city’s emergency response dispatch system cut over to a new upgraded system. Flawlessly. The entire process took less than 90 seconds.

“We were pretty confident there wouldn’t be any problems,” says Bill Perkins, president of Application Data Systems (ADSI), the company that wrote the software for the upgrade, “but with a critical system like this, we just couldn’t take any chances.” Technicians from ADSI, as well as NCR and the city’s ITS group remained on site for several hours after the cut over, monitoring calls and searching for any signs of a glitch. None were found.

The upgrade for the city of Dayton’s emergency response dispatch system has been in the works since 1997, according to Bill Hill, Director of Information & Technical Services (ITS) for the city. The current system had provided excellent service since its 1985 installation, but was quickly becoming outdated and would not support peripheral upgrades that would be required in the near future. The Dayton city commission unanimously approved the funding last April, and then the real work began.

The challenge was to update the computer structure software that supports the emergency response dispatch system for the city. This system serves police, fire and medic services and includes not only the 911 system, but any communications between dispatch and police/fire vehicles as well as systems in the city vehicles such as those that allow officers to run checks on vehicles, property and suspects. The upgraded system had to be fast, support a new 911/phone system and be Y2K compliant. “These days, you can’t add new systems such as 911 or other features related to public safety functions if you are working with an older information processing system. We had to upgrade the main system before we could do anything else,” explains Hill.

The upgrade team included Hill, Alan Pittman also from ITS, Mark Parr from ADSI and NCR rep Carol Good. Dayton Police Chief Ron Lowe and Fire Chief Larry Collins were also instrumental in their support.

This was not the first time the city of Dayton, ADSI and NRC had worked together. The original, 1985 emergency response dispatch system was designed by the city, the software was written by ADSI, and NRC installed the hardware. It was during this development phase that the city and NCR created the first fault tolerant public safety system. “Fault tolerance is extremely important in public safety,” explains Hill, “this means if one part of our system fails, the rest of the system keeps operating. Many cities across the country have adopted the fault tolerant features developed for the Dayton system.” The hardware crated for Dayton’s fault tolerant system was later developed and marketed as NCR’s “Life Keeper” product.

As the upgrade team formed their plan, it was determined NCR would supply their powerful data warehousing hardware for the system and Application Data Systems would write the upgrade software. ADSI specializes exclusively in developing software for public safety applications for cities across the country. The team also coordinated their work with P&R Communications of Dayton, the provider of the Motorola radio transmission hardware used in the field in police cars, fire equipment and medic vehicles.

Since the upgrade installation, dispatchers are impressed with the increased speed of the system and like the more readable screens. There were no drastic changes in how the system operates, and no one had to be retrained. Some functions were changed to mouse functions, which means less keyboarding for the dispatchers. Officers in the field are also experiencing faster response times when they utilize their in-vehicle systems.

Now that the structure system is upgraded, the system is capable of successfully supporting a new phone/911 system for the city which Ameritech will begin installing this summer. This system will use Ameritech hardware and software, but will seamlessly interface with the upgraded ADSI software.

The combination of specially customized ADSI software and state-of-the-art NCR hardware makes Dayton’s upgraded system one of the most powerful public safety systems in the world. The speed and flexibility it offers will serve Dayton’s police and fire/medical personnel, and as a result, its citizens, well into the new millennium.

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