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Benefits from ANI: computer-aided dispatch is another 911 innovation in Elizabeth.


Like many other emergency ressonse organizations, the Elizabeth, N.J., police department enthusiastically embraced the 911 emergency phone system concept when it was first developed.

But, as has also been the case with many early 911 system enthusiasts, the department's experience installing and operating such a system has not been without problems.

Now, however, after more than five years of effort, the department not only has an efficiently functioning ANI (automatic number identification) 911 system in place, it is also soon scheduled to achieve full integration of that system with a computer-aided dispatch system. Within a few years the department expects to be connected to a statewide 911 ALI (automatic location identification) system that will make its emergency response operations as effective and efficient as any in the nation.

"When we first began considering installation of a 911 emergency response system in the early '80s the technology was still in its infancy. Even our local telephone company was unprepared to support such a system. So, we decided to hold off for a bit," explains Deputy Chief William Kelly, who has been in charge of the department's 911 system efforts over the years. "By 1984 we concluded the time had come to move ahead with the installation of a 911 system. In so doing, Elizabeth became one of the first cities in the state of New Jersey to take that step."

Unique Role

The Elizabeth police department plays a somewhat unique role in the communications operations of its city. In addition to handling its own radio and telecommunications, it is also responsible for those systems for all the city's departments except for fire.

That includes health, water, utilities and public works. In addition, it is responsible for the operation and maintenance of all of the city's 230 traffic control signals.

Once the 911 decision was made, the first thing the department did was hire a consultant who recommended a system integrator and hardware vendor. Between them, they designed and installed a 911 system with ANI capability which all parties involved considered to be "far ahead of its time."

With the somewhat reluctant cooperation of New Jersey Bell Telephone Co., that originally 911 system went into operation in April 1986. But, because of frequent breakdowns, it was never put into full operation.

"Unfortunately, both our hardware vendor and Jersey Bell were still in the early stages of 911 learning curves when our first system was installed. The phone company hadn't yet fully implemented the advanced electronics required for ANI operations. So, our ANI only worked from certain parts of the city," Kelly says.

Backup Helped

"In addition, when the ANI portion of the system broke down, which it did with great frequency, that knocked out our entire 911 phone operations," he says.

Fortunately, the department kept its former seven-digit emergency phone trunk lines in place during the system conversion. So, it was still able to receive emergency phone calls when the 911 system went down.

Also fortunate, according to Kelly, was the fact the Elizabeth police department was scheduled to move into new headquarters in the summer of 1987. The city's entire municipal phone system was scheduled to be upgraded in conjunction with that move.

By then, New Jersey Bell had completed the electronic enhancements to its CO required for 911 operations throughout the city.

The department decided to cut its losses and get a totally new 911 system. On the recommendation of another consultatn hired by the city to design its citywide phone system, it hired AT&T to install and maintain a new 911 system using advanced, multi-line electronic key turrets from V Band Corp., Elmsford, N.Y.

That new 911 system was installed in the communications center of the department's new headquarters building in June 1987.

It has been in successful and reliable operation ever since. Although initially installed without ANI capabilities because of additional problems at New Jersey Bell, the system was upgraded a few months later.

"We were disappointed that we couldn't have ANI right away on our new 911 system," Kelly says.

Worth The Wait

"But," he continues, "we felt it would be worth waiting a bit longer to get the advance electronics of the V Band technology.

"The wait was worth it, because we are now able to integrate the V Band systems with our new CAD system. We are confident that when the time comes for us to tie into the statewide ALI network we will be able to do so with minimum delay and expense."

At present, all four dispatch stations in the department's communications center are equipped with flush-mounted 120-button electronic key telecomm consoles, or turrets, built right into the racks that contain their radio controls, burglar alarms, and the CRT displays for their computer-related operations. In addition, a small digital ANI display is mounted on top of each rack above the phone turret.

Of the 120 buttons on each turret 40 are assigned to dedicated ringdown phone lines connected to banks and other financial institutions, hospitals, ambulance garages, towing services, the fire department, and other agencies and municipal departments most frequently involved in situations requiring immediate response. When any of those buttons is pushed, a dedicated phone on the other end of the line automatically rings, and keeps ringing until it is answered.

Another 20 buttons on each turret serve as extensions of thephones of key departmental officials, for use in making outside dial-up calls, and for other purposes. The last 20 buttons presently are unused.

Room To Grow

"We don't yet use all of the buttons on our consoles, nor do we utilize the V Band system's pre-programmed speed-dialing feature. But, it's nice to know they are there to handle any new requirements that may present themselves," says Warren Bush, assistant signal supervisor. The 17-year civilian employee of the department is responsible for technical operation of the emergency response and other communication systems.

Nine buttons in the center of the turret are used exclusively for incoming 911 calls, and five more are still assigned to the department's former seven-digit emergency phone number.

"Some people, particularly older folks, still make their emergency calls using our old number. In addition, we had the phone company link the 911 and seven-digit emergency numbers so that, if our 911 system goes down for some reason, 911 calls will automatically be switched to the seven-digit number.

"Thankfully, we haven't had occasion to use that back-up capability yet," Bush says.

One of the new 911 system's most enthusiastic supporters, he is particularly impressed with improvements such as integration of each dispatch station's phone system with its radio communications network. This lets dispatchers use a single headset to talk both over the phone and over the radio, leaving both hands free.

No Footprint

Another figure that impresses Bush is the V Band system's ability to handle several types of voice communications systems--including dedicated ringdown lines, 911 circuits, and in-house extensions--from a single control panel. "One of the biggest benefits of our system is its nonexistent footprint," he says. "With our previous 911 system each dispatch station was equipped with separate 20-button telephone handsets for 911, ringdown, and internal communications.

"In addition, each station had a microphone. Combined with their computer keyboards, this dispatchers much room to do paperwork, or, for that matter, to rest their elbows," he observes.

With the new system, when 911 calls come in the calling telephone number is automatically displayed on the small V Band monitor, and the dispatcher makes a written record of it at once. If the caller then hangs up, or the call is interrupted before the dispatcher obtains the caller's address and the details of the emergency, the dispatcher has a phone number to use to restore communications.

If the caller doesn't answer, the dispatcher can look up the address in a special directory provided by the phone company. In the case of unlisted or new numbers, the dispatcher can call a 24-hour security service at the telco for those addresses.

Audio Recording

In addition to automatically displaying a calling 911 number, the V Band system automatically makes an audio recording of each emergency call. It automatically prints out a record of that call that includes the calling number, time of the call, duration, and the dispatch station that handled it.

Then dispatchers use the integrated radio system and dedicated ringdown lines to dispatch squad cars and other vehicles to the scene.

"There is no doubt that the ANI capabilities of our new 911 system have already greatly increased our ability to respond to emergencies both quickly and effectively, as well as our ability to accurately and automatically record much essential data on those operations," says Captain Ronald Simon, who is in charge of the Elizabeth police department's communications and computer operations.

"When we get our new CAD system installed we will be able to increase our capabilities in both of these areas of our operations even further," he reports.

A computer-based system that will provide a direct interface between calling parties and responding police units during 911 emergencies, the department's new CAD system is expected to be fully operational before the end of this year.

Using that system, dispatchers can record a 911 caller's phone number and address, the nature of the emergency and the responding squad car or other emergency response unit's radio frequency.

Three-Way Talk

The CAD system will then establish direct three-way radio/telephone communications linking the caller, the dispatcher and the emergency response unit.

In addition, it will automatically record conversations occurring among the three during the entire emergency response effort, relieving the dispatcher of the responsibility for manually documenting details.

"Even with our new 'hands off' CAD system, our dispatchers currently may still have to look up a caller's address if the caller doesn't know or isn't sure about it," says simon.

Since announcing the new enhanced 911 system to the public in the summer of 1987, the volume of emergency calls using the 911 number has increased at a steady pace.

Today, the department gets more than 120,000 911 calls a year that actually require police action, plus a good number of calls that don't.

It receives approximately 12,000 calls a year that require just ambulance response.

"Unfortunately, many people dial the 911 number to report events that are not real emergencies," Simon says. "I guess that's the price we have to pay.

"On the other hand, because the public is now aware that calling phone numbers will be automatically revealed to our dispatchers we have seen a significant reduction in crank and hoax calls.

"So, maybe the things balance out," he says.

Beefing Up

The public's dependence upon the 911 emergency response system has increased concern within the department about possible failure, or overload, of the system.

Therefore, the department recently ordered four additional V Band 911 systems, plus additional radio equipment.

"Now that both we and the public have come to count so heavily on our 911 system, we have decided to install two additional auxiliary 911 stations in our communicaitons centrol center," Simon says.

"They can be used for training or serve as backups for our four existing stations, and will provide additional communications capability in the event of major disasters.

"We are also installing two similar, fully equipped stations at our computer operations center for use in the event that something renders that center inoperable."

For Adelina Gonzales, a civilian employee who has worked as a dispatcher for the Elizabeth police department for more than nine years, addition of reliable ANI capabilities to her dispatch station has already made her job both easier and more rewarding.

"We caught the perpetrators of two B&Es [breaking and entering] within one hour," she says.

"The police reporting those crimes used the 911 number to give us their addresses and keep us informed of what was going on while the crimes were in progress.

"Our officers were able to apprehend those bad guys either in the middle of the break-in, or just as they were leaving the scene.

"One morning like that really makes this job worthwhile," she says.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:automatic number identification in New Jersey
Publication:Communications News
Date:Jun 1, 1990
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