Thursday, March 24, 2022

Emergency Communications Project Expanded to Improve Response Times

Austin Partners with Williamson County for Automatic Aid in Fire Dispatch

On February 15, 2022, the City of Austin, with partners in Williamson County, went live with a system that extends Automatic Aid for fire dispatch. The new system, Tellus, is an interface that brings together disparate Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) systems to share information. This allows City of Austin Fire dispatchers to see where the units belonging to Georgetown, Cedar Park, and Round Rock fire departments are located when dispatching for an incident. The CAD system will automatically dispatch the closest unit, regardless of jurisdiction.

“This project is a huge win for our extended community. It allows our dispatch team to identify the closest resources available–regardless of county or city limits–and get them moving to where they’re needed most,” said Fire Chief Joel G. Baker.

“Automatic Aid has been in effect within Travis County for a number of years and has been very successful,” said Assistant City Manager Rey Arellano. “We’re so glad to be able to extend this technology to our Williamson County partners. It’s a hugely beneficial technology tool that helps our teams respond to emergencies with the right resources, from the right locations,” said Arellano.

The idea for Automatic Aid was developed by members of the public safety community, including the Travis County Sheriff’s Office (TSCO), the Austin Fire Department, Austin-Travis County EMS (ATCEMS), and the Austin Police Department. These agencies recognized the need to share information among CAD systems for improved response times and worked with the City of Austin’s Public Safety Information Technology team—a division of Communications and Technology Management (CTM)—to bring the idea to life. A CAD-to-CAD system was needed that was more secure, encrypted end-to-end, and designed to interface with any CAD system regardless of the vendor. CTM’s Public Safety IT team worked for years to identify and implement a new product to fit these specifications.

“This was a complex technology implementation due to the multiple agencies involved, but after years of planning, we’re proud to have successfully configured multiple CAD systems to ‘talk’ to each other,” said Chandy Marler, IT Manager, Public Safety IT.  

“Since the conceptualization of the project, the IT team faced many challenges in engineering, design, and product development, but we’re so proud to have a successful implementation. The impact this project will have on the community members of Georgetown, Cedar Park, Round Rock, and Austin will be tremendous,” said Sherry Goertz, IT Corporate Manager, Public Safety IT.

Currently, Automatic Aid in Williamson County has been implemented for the fire departments of Georgetown, Cedar Park, and Round Rock. The long-term goals of this effort are expanding the program to all cities in Williamson County, and to allow Fire, EMS, and Law Enforcement agencies to request the closest appropriate resource in either Travis or Williamson County.

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