Earlier this year, the UC Irvine Police Department upgraded their dispatch center, resulting in quicker response times and more accurate and efficient service to the UCI community. The antiquated system used for the last 20 years was replaced as part of the police unit’s periodic upgrades.
Dispatchers are now working in a more comfortable environment, reducing the risk of mistakes at the end of shifts due to fatigue, as well as making them more upbeat.
Officer Caroline Alberti noted that a happy work environment for the dispatchers resulted in an improved mood for the entire police force.
‘When the dispatchers are happier, so are the officers,’ Alberti said.
Linda Ochaita, a UCIPD dispatch supervisor, explained that the new system replaced a number of older monitors and computers, as well as an extensive collection of phone books and shared systems, with three comprehensive dispatch consoles, allowing three dispatchers to work simultaneously.
Each dispatcher now has their own bank of monitors and computer systems so they no longer have to share systems, increasing response times dramatically.
The major component of the new system, Vesta, manages all incoming calls, determining in which order they should be answered and handling the hold process between dispatchers, much like the old system.
The major advantage Vesta presents, however, is that it records the last 30 minutes of phone conversation, allowing a dispatcher to check the reports of emergency callers in order to be more accurate in their direction of police officers.
Also, the system retains the last 100 phone numbers to connect to emergency lines, giving operators the ability to call back the location of a caller if multiple emergencies happen at the same time.
Dispatcher Tori Hoenisch explained how in the past dispatchers would have had to write down information manually.
‘We [the dispatchers] would have to write the first location as fast as possible before it got erased by the second call,’ Hoenisch said.
She also noted that the desks now move up and down at the touch of a button with a system to warm her feet as well as fans to keep her cool.
Another major component of the system is the ability for the dispatchers to rapidly transfer callers and emergency personnel as well as interact more quickly with deaf callers.
Ochaita explained that with the old system, the dispatcher would have to find a number in a series of phone books and internal reference books, then punch in the number and transfer it, using precious minutes that, with the new system, will no longer be lost.
‘The dispatchers can now just find the number on their screen, click and the call is transferred,’ Ochaita said.
Ochaita also described how the new system was more convenient for the hearing impaired.
‘The system is built for TTY [teletypewriter for deaf communication]. The dispatchers just press what they want to say rather than having to type everything,’ Ochaita said.
Police Chief Al Brown explained how the Vesta system has the ability to receive calls from wireless phones and how the police department is working with a number of other organizations statewide to coordinate the logistics of answering emergency calls from wireless and cellular phones.
‘Whenever an emergency call is made from a wireless phone, it is directed to the CHP,’ Brown said. ‘Efforts are being made to direct the calls to the jurisdiction they fall in.’
UCIPD is trying to obtain a grant for an interactive mapping system that would show the location of wireless callers, allowing dispatchers to better direct officers to the location of the call. The mapping system would project a dot representing the location of the caller on a map of campus.
Brown explained that money from yearly allocations is being saved and policemen are requesting grants, but the interactive mapping system will not arrive immediately.
‘The mapping system is still at least a year away,’ Brown said.
The department is also in the process of obtaining grants to purchase new radios for all of the police officers, giving them more channels than their present units and the ability to carry only one radio rather than multiple ones.
The upgrades made to the dispatch center has created a sense of excitement in the police department and an enthusiasm to upgrade other services as well. Along with the grant to purchase new radios, a number of other services and systems are being pursued.
Within the next year to year and a half, all of the new improvements should be completed, leaving UCI with a police department that is more efficient and responsive to even the most minor of incidents.