While You Were Sleeping

Two nights ago, DEM upgraded San Francisco’s 9-1-1 Computer Aided Dispatch System (CAD).  Why? Because our current dispatch system is 14 years old and is no longer supported by the vendor (it happens…anyone remember Lotus Notes and WordPerfect?). But updating a sunsetting system isn’t the only benefit of this CAD upgrade; In addition to technical support, our new dispatch system will have features that allow us to deploy emergency services more efficiently.


What’s a CAD and why is it important?

Computer Aided Dispatch allows us to identify, coordinate, and track first responders during police, fire, and medical emergencies.  That said, it’s critical for the safety of the public and first responders to have an up-to-date and fully supported system.

What we did to get ready for the upgrade.

Doing an upgrade of this nature is a very complex IT project and is no small feat; it took months and months of planning, preparation, and training.  And because being able to call 9-1-1 is a vital city service (that can’t lapse), we had to do this upgrade while the trains were running, so to speak, to ensure no disruption to 9-1-1.

So, here’s a rundown of what we did to get ready:

  • Since March 2013, San Francisco’s new CAD system has been online and tested thoroughly with our 9-1-1 dispatchers and our partners in the Police Department, Fire Department, and the Municipal Transportation Agency.
  • More than 50,000 test calls were made in the system. This includes test calls to mobile data terminals in police, fire, and emergency medical response units in the field.
  • Various scenarios were tested with multiple users to simulate peak call volume and testing to simulate a 500 percent surge in call volume.
  • 9-1-1 dispatchers received three days of initial training plus periodic refresher trainings so they can become familiar with the new system.
San Francisco's 9-1-1 Dispatch Floor

San Francisco’s 9-1-1 Dispatch Floor

As we approach day three of the upgrade, a 24/7 team consisting of both DEM personnel and a vendor support team are on site to quickly address issues as they arise during the launch. If it becomes necessary, 9-1-1 dispatchers may switch to a common practice called manual mode.  This practice has been employed in the past when the existing system has had to go out of service for maintenance.

In short: Having our CAD upgraded is a very good thing for anyone in San Francisco who is experiencing an emergency and needing to call 9-1-1, and those who are dispatched to come to their aide.

Meanwhile, there are quite a few people here at DEM saying “TGIF!”


Cori Cruz at work in the San Francisco DEM Dispatch center.


About sfdemkristin

A strong believer that we are more prepared than we think, Kristin advocates it is not a looming disaster that inspires us to prepare, but rather the peace of mind that comes from having taken a few simple steps in advance of an emergency to take care of our loved ones. Kristin can be found on Twitter @kristinlhogan.

Posted on May 9, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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