I am pleased to receive the second phase of the Matrix audit of the 911 Center. The County Board Chair and I requested this audit that the County Board approved and supervised. We received the first phase of the audit on 12/11/07; this second phase completes Matrix’s work. As the County Board and I have worked to improve the 911 Center over the last year, we wanted a fresh, objective, expert review of the system to let us know how the system is functioning and what additional improvements would be helpful.
The audit is a careful, responsible piece of work. The County Board and I are reviewing it immediately and thoroughly, and will act quickly.
Knowing the County Board and my commitment to the 911 Center and the hard work of its staff, I anticipated the audit’s conclusion that the Center is performing at a “very high level” (page 9) and achieving the standards of a high-quality, large-volume 911 Center. The auditor, for example, comments: “… it is important to recognize that the Dane County PSCC is operating at a high level of effectiveness and efficiency. The project team has been very impressed with the quality of staff, the focus on providing high quality service and the constant efforts to innovate and to maintain the PSCC at the forefront of emergency communication” (page 2).
This judgment combined with specific references to the 911 Center’s “high performance” (page 4) confirms that Dane County residents receive excellent, reliable services from the 911 Center meeting or exceeding national standards, answering calls quickly, successfully implementing Priority Fire and Medical Dispatch, and enhancing training and quality improvements.
The audit also confirms the progress we have made in implementing the Center’s Ten Year Strategic Plan and supports the steps we have taken to bolster the 911 system.
I believe five recommendations should be prioritized.
- Accelerate CAD Work. A new CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) is central to the efficiency of 911; CAD-compatibility will also be the key factor in changing or accepting new protocols from the police, fire, and emergency medical services that use 911. The new $4 million CAD is included in our Capital Improvement Plan and the first half is invested this year. Thanks to additional technical staff that the County Board and I have added and who will be on the job soon, we can and will accelerate the design and implementation of this project.
- Consolidate protocols. The audit clearly identifies the numerous protocols from 85 different agencies that our communicators serve as one of the biggest ongoing challenges for 911. While I realize that individual law enforcement agencies have strong views about what protocols should apply, this audit makes clear that the greater good is best served by limiting the number of different protocols. That is why in November of 2008 I asked the 911 Center Board to review and, where possible, simplify and consolidate these protocols. I had asked the Center Board to complete this project in six months; this audit provides additional impetus to their efforts.
- Automate non-emergency calls. The audit shows 72% of calls into the 911Center are on non-emergency lines. I am eager to analyze and act on the automated tree-phone proposed by this audit. The issue of non-emergency calls is a priority for the City of Madison and the County to work through in our current contract negotiations; the Mayor and I intend to have these negotiations concluded this spring.
- Training for staff. 911 staff have stressful jobs that ask much of the men and women who take on this challenging and critically important work. The audit recognizes the success of the priority dispatch services, especially with the improvements in accountability and training. For all the success of Medical and Fire Priority Dispatch, it is clear that some of our veteran communicators are not yet comfortable with the procedures they must rigorously follow in implementing those services. The expanded training program, the new training facility , and the new class of 10 recruits starting in March will address these and similar concerns held by 911 staff; I will continue to evaluate and improve their training.
- Performance Measures. The audit states the 911 Center meets or exceeds the large majority of performance measures (page 2). I will direct the 911 Center to immediately adopt the several additional performance measures recommended by the audit, such as to communicate any changes in protocols or procedures more formally via a “master memo” monthly (page 13).
I very much appreciate the efforts of Matrix and Karin Thurlow of the County Board staff, who supervised the audit, and the 911 management and staff, especially interim Director Kathy Krusiec and Operations Manager Rich McVicar, who provided the data and information Matrix needed.
This audit is neither the end nor the beginning of a process to continually improve 911 services but is another important step. I look forward to working with County Board supervisors, law enforcement, fire and EMS, Sheriff Mahoney, the Center Board, the City of Madison, and other local governments to improve the County’s 911 system.
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