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City upgrades dispatch system

September 13, 1999

911 UpgradesBy KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer




The City of Hagerstown recently spent more than $500,000 to upgrade the police department's aging computer-aided dispatch system.

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The new Hewlett Packard system is Y2K compliant and will help dispatchers streamline their handling of up to 500 calls a day, according to Sgt. Jack Hall, who heads the department's communications and records division.

The Microsoft Windows-based system, which went online Sept. 2, is more flexible and has more options for dispatchers, said Hall.

"It's like going from a typewriter to a computer," he said.

The hardware includes easy-to-read 19-inch color monitors. The software has more menu choices and categories than the old system, which had been in place since 1987 and was not Y2K compliant, he said. And the technology can be adapted for upgrades to keep the system cutting-edge, said Hall.

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Dispatchers can keep track of officers by recording the time they are dispatched, how long it takes them to reach a destination and other details, said Hall.

"It helps dispatchers find out truly what is going on, on the street," he said.

A separate monitor with a touch screen keeps the dispatchers in contact with different police and emergency agencies and lets them hear other dispatch calls.

The detail of the computer records will be helpful for "crime analysis and the development of budget requests," said Hall.

The dispatchers received three days of training on the system, which was purchased from Vision Technology of North Carolina.

"It allows us to anticipate what an officer's going to need and makes it a lot easier to do more than one thing at a time," said 20-year-veteran dispatcher Bob Binau.

Police department officials observed the system in operation at two Florida police departments before buying it, Hall said.

In addition to the computers, the dispatch office was improved and now complies with the Americans With Disabilities Act, said Hall.

The layout of the desks and equipment was redesigned to use space better , Hall said.

Ergonomically designed desks which raise and tilt to suit a seated or standing dispatcher were installed. Padded chairs that would look at home in any CEO's office were also purchased. High-clarity headsets have replaced stationary microphone-type phone receivers. Noise levels were reduced and fluorescent lighting replaced exposed, glaring 150-watt bulbs which made the room uncomfortably hot.

"It's a high stress job and all the creature comforts were considered," Hall said.

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