Tazewell County 911 has been handling emergency calls in Tazewell County, Virginia since April 23, 1997. They currently process over 31,000 emergency calls a year. The 911 center dispatches fire, police and rescue for emergency calls.
Tazewell County 911 experienced a rapid increase in call volume as wireless service spread across Virginia. The convenience of cell phones to reach 911 only added to the demands on the center, which was already strained from its population of over 45,000. Even one of the smaller towns made up of just 4,000 residents was generating 1,000 EMD calls thanks to two major nursing homes in the area.
And it wasn’t just EMD calls overwhelming Tazewell County. While they already had a script for EMD calls, they had no uniform way of handling the law enforcement calls that came in daily, and improvisation was no longer cutting it. Without the script, they were missing questions on important calls and lacking consistency.
The dispatchers also needed to be able to give pre-arrival instructions for every 911 call that came in. With many rural areas, it could sometimes take emergency responders a good 30 minutes to get to a call in good weather. In the meantime, the Tazewell County dispatchers knew they needed to be able to give advice on any call for service before responders arrived.
Essentially, Tazewell County needed a way to effectively handle their growing call volume and to quickly process all calls (fire, police and rescue) in a standardized form. They were ready to put down the pen and paper. They were ready for a single solution to deliver integrated protocols. They were ready for CACH®.
When Tazewell County 911 first sought a call handling system, they evaluated many providers, including those that were already prevalent throughout Virginia. Instead of basing their decision simply on the majority, however, they found the right fit for them. They decided to employ PowerPhone’s Total Response® Tablet, initially focusing on EMD, citing protocol flexibility and delivery as one of the main draws.
“We looked at other providers, but they were so restrictive, and it was hard to make changes to the protocols,” recalled Derrick Ruble, Director of Tazewell County Emergency Communications/911 Center.
“We were able to update PowerPhone’s motor vehicle protocol almost instantly to make it more specific to local details. We’re not trying to change the procedure for CPR, just enhance the information being collected based on our needs.”
“With the other companies, changes had to be submitted and approved, and it was beyond our control,” Ruble said.
So when Tazewell County faced its most recent challenges and found they needed a more efficient way to handle their increased call volume, PowerPhone introduced them to their technology-based Total Response solution: Computer Aided Call Handling (CACH). As one of the first PSAPs in Virginia to become EMD-certified and currently one of only 29 EMD-accredited PSAPs in the state, Tazewell County is no stranger to trendsetting. Thus, they also became one of the first sites to implement CACH in Virginia, and they haven’t looked back since.
Total Response CACH has simplified the call handling process for Tazewell County, making their high call volume easier to handle. The dispatchers no longer have to write everything down by hand and then transfer that information into the CAD system. Instead, their new CACH system interfaces seamlessly with their original CAD system, Southern Software. Total Response CACH streamlines the flow of information between CACH and CAD, improving the efficiency of call handling and the accuracy of dispatch decisions. Further, the information shared between CACH and CAD is transferred in real-time, which gives Tazewell County responders unrivaled insight into scene conditions before they even arrive, as well as helps dispatchers with call and incident response management.
“As soon as the dispatcher accepts the dispatch recommendation, BAM, all the information is dropped right into CAD with a time stamp.”
“And now any dispatcher can look on the computer and know exactly what’s going on with other calls and if anyone needs help, instead of looking over someone’s shoulder at what they’re writing down,” Ruble said.
Because Tazewell’s CACH software provides scripts for EMD, LED and FSD calls, including the all-important pre-arrival instructions, dispatchers are no longer just experts in EMD and ad-libbing for all other calls.
“Standardization, standardization, standardization.”
“We’ve got it. For every single call now, not just EMD. And I can tell you, in the snow, we can get 20 to 30 calls about car accidents in a 20 to 30 minute period, but now, we can handle it,” Ruble said.
And it’s the built-in Quality Assurance component that’s really helping Tazewell ensure this standardization is reached every single time. For Tazewell County, it’s an excellent way to go back, pull calls at random and see how dispatchers are doing. They plan to add this process of evaluating calls at random to every dispatcher’s yearly evaluation. And for new dispatchers, Tazewell aims to pull more calls each week in order to give feedback.
“It’s a great way to give positive feedback, not disciplinary action,” Ruble explained. “Just like the protocols, the QA process is uniform, with each call ranked the same way, but also customizable. You decide where you want to put the most value.”