BarCo 911 Center makes upgrades

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

MULES 5 system helps expedite dispatchers’ tasks

For 16 years, Barry County E9-1-1 Director Mike Phillips has seen changes and upgrades to the 911 centers around the country.

Recently, the Barry County 911 center upgraded its technology to MULES (Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System) 5, which will help expedite many tasks performed by 911 dispatchers.

“The value of MULES 5 is it allows us to make warrant packets more quickly,” he said. “Historically, we would have to make five to six queries to get all the information [on a subject] like address, marks and tattoos and history.”

MULES 5 allows that information to be automatically filled in one search.

“This means it will help expedite the process when a judge issues a warrant with that base information, which we can add to,” Phillips said. “When I started in this field 16 years ago, they had just transitioned to MULES 2, which was really complicated compared to what we have today.”

Phillips said over his 13 years serving Barry County, the technology has changed from a string format to a match format.

“This means, before every transaction was separate and there were four to five letter combinations for codes that the dispatchers had to know,” he said. “Now, it is fill in the blank.”

Additionally, this allows for a quicker return on the information that is run through dispatch on a subject.

“While that is a benefit to both the dispatchers and the officers, the biggest asset of the new system falls on the 911 center,” he said. “When it comes to warrant entry for all the municipalities and the county — if dispatch wasn’t doing that — it would fall on the individual municipalities or the Sheriff’s office.”

According to Phillips, there area a lot of man hours that go into those tasks and to have it auto loaded helps with both the man hours spent and the accuracy of the returns.

“Barry County 911 is fortunate from a technology standpoint to stay current,” he said. “When I started here 13 years ago, everyone was wanting cell calls to be routed.”

At that time, most of the 911 calls were from a landline, which automatically gives a lot of information.

“It gives a location, names, and call back number,” he said. “On a cell, you are mobile. So, the information may not be as easily obtained.

“We saw a big technology change on that, specifically for areas trying to obtain that technology.”

Phillips said fortunately for Barry County, that technology was brought in on day one.

“In addition to the new MULES 5, Barry County also recently brought in text message to 911,” he said. “However, 911 centers across the board continue to encourage people to, ‘Call if you can, text if you must.’”

This is a new opportunity available in Barry County to help keep residents safe.

“In our area specifically, there are areas with low service where a phone call may not go through,” Phillips said. “But, a text might. The performance in 911 computer machines is much quicker now.”

With the Barry County 911 Center’s use of multiple softwares and continued upgrades to that technology, things are getting faster and more accurate.

“Our CAD system is sometimes taken for granted in the sense of those upgrades,” he said. “For our dispatchers who work long shifts, things like upgrading from a 19-inch to a 23-inch monitor is a big deal.”

Also, things like personalization of the displays with colors helps in the day-to-day operations.

“In Barry County we had four work stations, and now we are up to five,” Phillips said. “This means we can handle more call volume when there is a natural disaster or major flooding.”

Outside of the technology advances in the field, Barry County E9-1-1 has upgraded and grown in the form of training dispatchers, as well.

“Our training program is approximately 750 hours and is a combination of classroom and on the job training,” he said. “Additionally, professional certifications and continued education.

“13 years ago, you would hire someone and they would be taking 911 calls within a month, now they are not at that phase until month five.”

As the years have progressed, there have been more options for career opportunities in the industry, like promotions.

“That is a win for the industry and for Barry County,” Phillips said.

In the next 13 years, Phillips doesn’t expect to see a slow in the upgrades in technology or training, but rather Barry County will continue to look forward and develop opportunities that help serve its residents.

“I hope in 13 years I will have a board that is as good to work with as the one I have today,” he said. “For the industry, I see us on the path to receive video.

“That could allow a firefighter to see the fire before they are on scene and develop a plan to fight it.”

Additionally, Phillips would like to see more of a standard on what is acceptable for 911 centers.

“We are fortunate to be able to do emergency medical, but some centers can’t do that,” he said. “I think we will see a lot of centers getting on a similar baseline of services.”

Technology in the 911 centers are upgraded typically every three to five years.

“We have multiple systems, so it is stair-stepped for us,” he said. “Every three to five years we are improving in some way, and we have seen that in cell locations over the years.”

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