As they rush to the scene of an accident, crime, or fire, first responders too often have minimal information on the nature of what they will encounter. Are the injuries serious? Does the perpetrator have a weapon? Is someone trapped inside a burning house? Does this location have a history of criminal activity?
But in the City of Richardson, Texas, first responders can now arrive with details not only on what is happening right now – but also what has happened in the past. Through a link between Information Builders’ WebFOCUS and the city’s 911 service, it’s all delivered straight to their iPhones.
A New Application
The City of Richardson began using the WebFOCUS BI platform in 2006 for various city functions, including accounting and budgeting, revenue management, human resources, and court docket management. After hearing how well WebFOCUS performed, the city’s police department wondered if the software could deliver immediate reporting on active 911 calls to mobile devices.
They asked the city’s IT department to explore the options. The response was a solution that would link WebFOCUS to the 911 system, and would allow public safety personnel to drill down to incident number, revealing the caller’s address and other vital information.
Eric Matthews, the City’s Deputy Chief Information Officer, found it surprisingly easy to implement the new system. “Once we learned the structure of the tables within our dispatching system,” he says, “it was a matter of a couple of hours to build that first report.
“That was the beauty of the WebFOCUS platform, he adds. “It made putting out a mobile version nothing more than scaling down the size of an HTML page. In our case, we wanted a very simple webpage that had two columns – list of incident numbers, and a list of addresses showing what’s going on right now. And that fits really nicely onto an iPhone.”
The City of Richardson continues to refine the system, Mr. Matthews says. “Officers and command staff were always concerned about the history of the callers, and any prior incidents at a location. And the only way to find that out in the past was to use a mobile computer in their cars.
“By adding archival information to our reporting tool,” Mr. Matthews says, “officers can now click on the address, and see the last 50 calls at that address, along with brief information about the call type, and any comments. So they can quickly see whether it was a traffic stop in front of the home, or a domestic violence call. That gives them a lot more context when they’re walking into a situation.”
Other cities have taken notice of Richardson’s system. “From the chief on down,” Mr. Matthews says, “our police will get questions about people who are in jail. This could come from relatives, or from the media. One of our police chiefs was at a conference recently, sitting at a table with other chiefs, and he said, ‘By the way, look at what I have.’ And he showed them how he could list all the people who are in the City of Richardson jail – on his phone.
“As an IT guy,” Mr. Matthews says, “I didn’t really grasp the significance of that. But the other chiefs said, ‘How did you get that?’ ‘I need that.’ ‘That’s what I want.’ And so he became kind of a celebrity by showing off his report.”