Police say 'no' to emergency dispatch centralisation

Dispatch operators will continue to operate out of the three regional centres and service both the Police and Fire services

Police’s plans for a new computer-aided dispatch system (CAD) do not include increased centralisation of the emergency response service, says Police ICT manager Rohan Mendis.

If a new system is implemented it will be powered by a centralised database, but dispatch operators will continue to operate out of the three regional centres and service both the Police and Fire services.

“The people [and their terminal equipment] will not be moved. They will continue to operate out of the three centres,” says Mendis.

Police face a difficult choice regarding the future of their CAD system. It may be possible to upgrade the current system, which Mendis says is the preferred option, as it would be cheaper and quicker to implement, too. However, if this isn’t possible, the system may have to be completely replaced.

The RFI issued calls for the replacement of the three communications centres in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, but this only means the databases will be combined, says Mendis.

Combining the database back-end would result in operational advantages, allowing, for example, a vehicle to be tracked more easily as it moved across the boundaries of the three regions. It would also enjoy the technical advantage of load-sharing, says Mendis. If all three centres are sharing a single database engine then a spike in workload at one centre is less likely to negatively effect the overall efficiency of the system.

The current system has come in for some criticism in the past, including the suggestion that staff in regional centres have insufficient local knowledge to properly direct emergency responses.

“The current system is performing well and has been regularly upgraded to maintain the currency of the hardware and software,” says Mendis.

The aim of upgrading or replacing the system, apart from centralisation of the database, is to take advantage of modern technology, says the RFI.

If an upgrade is possible, Police aim to have the necessary work completed before the end of the year. But, if a complete replacement proves necessary, this will take at least as long as it took to set up the original system — two years. And, with the government budgeting cycle to be taken into account, the timetable would probably stretch out to three years, says Mendis.

Total replacement would be considered a “major IT project” in government terms and so would be subjected to more stringent controls to avoid time or cost over-runs.

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