Grand Rapids upgrades dispatch

The city of Grand Rapids, Mich., recently awarded VisionAir Inc. a $1.5

million contract to create a state-of-the art, integrated computer-aided

dispatch system for its police and fire departments.

According to Duane Miller, an account executive with the North Carolina-based

software company, the new system will enable fire and police dispatchers

to share information from the same system. Police officers and firefighters

also will be able to use it to communicate in the field.

Miller said that because the current system is outdated, communications

between the departments suffer. He expects the VisionAir system to go live

in late summer.

With the new system, dispatchers will be able to view details about

calls as well as the status of all units. The system also can merge calls

together. For instance, if the system receives three calls within a certain

radius reporting three similar incidents, the system would alert units that

they might be dealing with a single incident. It also alerts responding

units to other critical information, such as prior calls to an address,

warrant information and nearby hazards.

Grand Rapids will outfit about 160 police and fire vehicles with wireless

mobile units that will enable officers and firefighters to communicate with

one another and with central dispatch while accessing information from local,

state and national databases. Miller said automatic vehicle locators will

be installed later for real-time location of the city's public safety units.

The fire department also will get a new electronic records management

system, which will adhere to the National Fire Incident Reporting System,

a national database of fire statistics and incident reports. The records

system will contain information such as hydrant checks and fire-alarm testing,

Miller said.

The system can be outfitted for municipalities of any size — from two

to 200 workstations, Miller said. The company has 200 such systems across

the country.

With 387 uniformed officers and 100 civilian employees, Grand Rapids

has the second-largest police department in Michigan, serving a population

of 200,000. Annually, its police respond to about 350,000 emergency and

nonemergency calls. The fire department has 260 full- and part-time employees,

who respond to about 20,000 calls a year.

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