The Lafayette Parish Communication District, which handles emergency calls for the parish’s first responders, announced Tuesday it’s transitioning to a more flexible, cloud-based, computer-aided dispatch system.
The district is contracting with Mark43, a New York-based software and data service company, for a roughly $1.5 million to $2 million new system. Mark43 is used by at least 60 public safety agencies across the country.
It’ll be the first multi-agency, cloud-based, computer-aided dispatch system in Louisiana, said Craig Stansbury, director for Lafayette 911 and the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for the parish.
“When every second counts, the most important thing is to have state of the art technology, and that’s what we’re trying to bring to Lafayette,” he said.
Computer-assisted dispatch helps 911 operators quickly determine which emergency responders need to be sent to a scene, determine which responders are nearest to the call and coordinate call information with first responder agencies, Stansbury said.
All first responders in the parish, including the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, Lafayette Police Department, Lafayette Fire Department, Acadian Ambulance Service and volunteer fire agencies, will use the new system.
Stansbury said the Mark43 system is more efficient and adaptive than the parish’s current server-based system, which routes emergency calls through servers at a call facility. The emergency system is required to have back-ups in place, meaning there’s a separate facility with a nearly identical set-up in case the primary facility goes down.
It doubles the cost, Stansbury said.
The new system will be accessible anywhere there’s internet access, meaning in the face of a catastrophic event, dispatchers could travel in a mobile command unit to a second site and resume receiving 911 calls, he said.
Another benefit to the cloud-based system is that it allows the communication district to more quickly adapt for the future. It can more easily absorb new technology initiatives the district is exploring, including allowing video calls to 911 and adding the ability to access area cameras near a call scene, Stansbury said.
Though operated through the internet, the system is secure, Stansbury said. The communication district will be contracting with two providers for new fiber cables to service the Lafayette 911 building and a satellite trailer will be acquired as a redundancy to ensure secure internet access for the cloud-based program.
Those will be an additional cost in the future, he said.
Stansbury said local emergency responder agencies had a say in the selection of the new system. Representatives from the Sheriff’s Office, Lafayette 911, Fire Department, Police Department and Acadian Ambulance attended demonstrations from top computer-assisted dispatch system candidates and scored each presentation. Mark43 was the top-scoring candidate across each agency, he said.
The communication district hopes to have the system operating within the next year, he said, but emergency dispatchers will train on a beta version of the program until it's ready to go live.
Mark43 co-founder and CEO Scott Crouch said in a release Tuesday he’s thrilled to be supporting Lafayette first responders with their program.
“Emergencies leave no room for inefficiency,” Crouch said. “That’s why we build our technology to support and connect everyone involved in the public safety process, from the dispatchers in the emergency communication centers to the first responders out in the field.”
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