City: Conversations with Clark County about 911 issues going in right direction

One goal is to make software and systems work together better for first responders.

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Springfield city officials said conversations regarding issues with technology used as part of the combined 911 emergency dispatch system are moving in a positive direction, though more work still needs to be done.

Last month Springfield Mayor Rob Rue emailed Clark County Commissioner Melanie Flax Wilt detailing issues — including a lack of full access to systems the city says were promised, system crashes and a lack of access to case management functions. Since then, a user advisory group, established by Flax Wilt, met earlier this month and plans to continue to do so.

Rue said the group includes Jason Via, deputy safety director, and representatives from the Springfield Police Division, Springfield Fire Rescue Division, the county and other users. He said that since Flax Wilt took charge, he has seen an “urgency” to make sure there is “greater customer satisfaction” among users of dispatch software.

“Melanie has stepped up to the plate in helping lead the dispatch where maybe others should have, but she’s taken charge to this point,” Rue said.

A more than $1 million contract provided to the News-Sun and signed by city and county officials established the joint 911 dispatch center and provided technology including radios, headsets and 911 phones. The contract is effective from Jan. 1, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2030.

The Clark County Sheriff’s Office manages the 7,000-square-foot dispatch center, office and training facility. The center is located on Home Road.

In an email from Flax Wilt to Sheriff Deb Burchett and others involved in the dispatch center, the commissioner summarized a meeting in May last year in which there were discussions to form a user advisory group. She said in her email to Rue that Burchett had agreed to have her office start the group. This group was established under Flax Wilt.

Interim Chief Deputy Mike Young said in an email the user group involves reporting software related to city police and fire personnel, and “there is a great deal of work” impacting the county information systems department and network, “as well as contractual matters for both the city and county to develop further discussions.”

“I would also highlight this topic with the assignment by Sheriff Burchett to have our personnel at the tables of these groups to continue to offer direction, guidance, support and partnership has aided the improvements,” Young said. “Commissioner Wilt will be as successful as the team is. The city and county are working together as we have previously, and the work for user access is controlled outside of the sheriff’s office. We could not form a user group until such time the county and city were prepared to discuss access/networks, contracts for such items too.”

Late last month, Rue said the city would not pay the July bill for its contract until issues are resolved or they see “movement in the right direction.”

Rue said that things are not where they need to be just yet, but he is satisfied with increased efforts to meet and fix any issues. He said there are some other factors beyond the county’s control with vendors who manage the systems to take into account as well.

Via said that positive strides are being made due to effective communication, and the county is being receptive to feedback.

He said many calls for service are time sensitive and first responders need to be able to access all necessary information “in a timely manner” in order to respond more efficiently.

“Hopefully, once we make forward movement and move past this portion of it, these other connections and cooperations will move along smoothly,” Via said.

Flax Wilt said she went on a ride-along with a Springfield police officer this week to observe his use of three different systems where police has said one could increase efficiency. She said she now has a better understanding of how the software works together and of the initial challenges with the new systems that may not be issues anymore.

“I think I have stepped beyond the scope of ... my direct responsibilities just to facilitate some conversations and ensure that we’re actively listening to the users to see what we can do better,” Flax Wilt said.

This has also resulted in users recognizing things they could do better and to better understand how the software works and their part in the system, she said.

One example of this is the decision to use one large television screen in the SPD command center to display all first responder vehicles instead of multiple desktops being logged in at the same time, Flax Wilt said.

“I think we’ve made progress, and while some of the things seem minor, I think they will have a big impact on transparency and ease of use, and that’s the key,” Flax Wilt said. “We forced a lot of people to go through a lot of changes, and the easier we can make the adoption of those changes on the users themselves, the better the county will be as a result.”

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