Sarasota County one of first agencies in the U.S. to implement new technology to improve 911 call routing and processing

Upgrades designed to help callers get help faster

The Sarasota County Public Safety Communications Center (PSCC) has become one of few agencies in the United States to implement new technology “aimed at reducing the time it takes to process an emergency call,” the county announced on May 25.

The PSCC is also in the early phases of installing a new computer-aided dispatch system, the purchase of which the County Commission unanimously approved during its April 25 meeting, the release notes.

That $4-million contract is with CentralSquare Technologies LLC, which is headquartered in Lake Mary. A county staff memo provided to the commissioners in the April 25 agenda packet pointed out that the PSCC dispatchers would notice that the new, more streamlined, user-friendly software would integrate well “with all existing hardware withing the [Communications Center].”

The PSCC has been using a Hexagon Corp. system since 2000, the memo added. That technology “has become antiquated and difficult to manage,” the memo explained. One problem, the memo said, is that 911 operators and responders have been dealing with mapping locations that could be two to three months out of date.

The upgrades in technology will “help someone experiencing an emergency get help faster and provide the first responders more accurate and timely information,” the May 25 news release says.

On Nov. 2, 2022, the release notes, Sarasota County’s PSCC upgraded its hardwired call-processing equipment (CPE) and mobile emergency service internet (ESInet). With that action, the release points out, “Sarasota County’s PSCC became the only public safety answering point to implement both services at the same time,” and it became the third facility in the U.S. to join a national network offering location-based routing.

The upgraded CPE uses the new location-based routing to deliver the call and the caller’s location simultaneously to the 911 Call Center, making certain that the call goes to the correct agency the first time, the release adds. Sarasota County’s PSCC is one of the few agencies in the country using that location-based routing, the release says.

The technology will reduce the amount of time dispatchers spend transferring calls to Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties, as the number of those calls is expected to decline, the release continues. Transfers of 911 calls can become necessary when a caller does not know his or her location or when a call bounces off a tower in a neighboring jurisdiction, which routes it to the incorrect answering point, the release says.

“The use of this new technology will help save precious time in an emergency and highlights Sarasota County as a leader in response and service to our community,” said Sarasota County Administrator Jonathan Lewis in the release.

Included in the PSCC upgrade, the release notes, is an internet-based remote emergency call processing system. This utilizes laptops, which — when paired with the remote radio system — will allow Sarasota County to receive and dispatch emergency calls anywhere internet connectivity exists, the release adds.

“These upgrades ensure that should there be inclement weather, there is a way to receive 911 calls and dispatch responders from an off-site or remote location,” the release says. The system also can “automatically reroute calls based on Sarasota County’s operational needs and requirements.”

“PSCC staff will work diligently to implement the newly purchased computer-aided dispatch system over the next year,” the release points out.

“We appreciate the county’s continued support in providing these enhancements in technology for the 911 Call Center that will improve the services we offer the citizens of Sarasota County,” said Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt Hoffman in the release.

As noted in the county staff memo for the April 25 County Commission meeting, the Public Safety Communications System provides full communications services for the Sarasota County Fire Department, the Nokomis Volunteer Fire Department, the City of Venice’s Police and Fire departments, the Longboat Key Police and Fire departments, the City of North Port Fire Department, the Englewood Fire Control District, the City of Sarasota Police Department, and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office

The Sheriff’s Office’s 2022 Annual Report says the PSCC handled a total of 657,936 calls in that calendar year. Of those, 289,624 were emergency calls. The report added that the 118 Sheriff’s Office employees of the PSCC “work day and night to ensure the ‘lifeline’ to the county’s emergency operations resources is open and accessible to our residents and visitors, regardless of the nature of the call.”

“We are exceptionally grateful for our partnership with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office,” said Sarasota County Emergency Services Director Rich Collins in the release.