Madison County 911-Dispatch Communication Manager, Lynda Holt, using the current computer-aided dispatch system, Swift Justice, at the Madison County Dispatch office on July 26. PHOTO BY  HANNAH KEARSE

Madison County 911-Dispatch Upgrade

Technology advancement for Madison County 911-dispatch in the near future
“Minutes count here,” Madison County 911-Dispatch Communication Manager, Lynda Holt, said. “Our protocol is to dispatch within 90 seconds after the phone call.”

Madison County 911-Dispatch was approved a $270,000 grant from the State of Montana 911 Program in May, to update its equipment. Madison County’s emergency response and dispatch record keeping will be more efficient with the installation of a new computer-aided dispatch system, which could be operating as soon as next summer.

From the moment 911-dispatch receives a civilian’s call or an officer’s page, they are providing information to first responders and assisting the call in many ways. A major advancement for Madison County 911-Dispatch, working with a new CAD system, is the ability for the 12+ programs to interface with the CAD system that is communicating with first responders.

“Minutes count here,” Madison County 911-Dispatch Communication Manager, Lynda Holt, said. “Our protocol is to dispatch within 90 seconds after the phone call.” 

The project is in the bidding stage, where contractors are providing estimated costs and their capabilities of installing the new system. Currently, three companies have proposed their services. 

Holt wants to make sure that the company chosen will be able to transfer the old data to the new system, implement the new equipment and train the individuals who will operate it. 

“We’d rather go slow with it and get it right the first time, than scramble to get it going and get it wrong,” Holt said. 

About $6.2 million were available for all Montana Public Safety Answer Point agencies, which includes 911-dispatches, law enforcement, fire departments and emergency medical services.

Madison County requested $270,000 from the funds for a new CAD system and was approved its full request.

“Everything starts with CAD,” Holt said.

It’s the system that informs first responders, a legal record of a 911-call or a police dispatch page and a timeline regarding the call or page. Insurance companies, courts and involved individuals can request to have access to that legal record. Otherwise, the system is confidential because it contains information like past criminal convictions, license plate numbers and addresses. Only the sheriff’s department, detention administrators and dispatch services can access this information.

Madison County’s 911-Dispatch services has three responding stations, each with six screens of information towering over the operators sitting in rolling desk chairs. Multiple programs operate on most of the screens, except for the screen sitting front and center, the CAD. 

Currently, with the Swift Justice CAD system, the 911- dispatch operator has to type information from the other programs into the CAD system to alert and inform all first responders. It sometimes freezes and some fields have character limitation that are problematic. 

The map illuminated on the screen above the CAD is a program called Rapid SOS, it accurately uses cell phones’ GPS to locate a 911-call. The ‘I Am Responding’ and Text 911 programs also use that screen but only one window can be opened at the same time.

The ‘I am Responding’ program updates first responders with incoming information as units are in route. The updates go to the responders’ cell phones, but this program isn’t part of the current CAD system. The information has to be entered into both. It’s time consuming, especially when multiple things are going on. 

‘I am Responding’ is considered a secondary resource because when the current CAD system was installed, depending on cell phones for immediate information wasn’t a reliable option. According to Holt, the program is a primary resource in today’s culture and technology. The new CAD system will automatically update and send out ‘I am Responding” information. 

The current CAD system is from 2004. At the time, it was the most technologically advanced system of its kind on the market, but so was the Motorola Razr for cellphones and the iPod for Apple Inc. Technology dates itself quickly, an aspect that a new CAD system can adjust to with updatable software.

“CAD is set up to grow with us,” Holt said. “We’ve just outgrown the current one.”

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65 N. MT Hwy 287
Ennis, MT 59729

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