Real-time, effective, interoperable data-sharing is essential for supporting emergency response today. For nearly a decade, jurisdictions within the National Capital Region (NCR) have benefitted from the NCR Fire and Rescue Computer-Aided Dispatch-to-Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD2CAD) Data-Exchange Hub (DEH). The DEH automates what was once a manual process in coordinating an effective mutual-aid fire department response effort.
Jurisdictions that participate in the regional CAD2CAD initiative—including the City of Alexandria, the counties of Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun, and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which includes Dulles International Airport, Reagan National Airport and the Dulles Toll Road—have seen an average response-time reduction of 90 seconds. Thus, the capabilities provided by the CAD2CAD initiative are not just “nice to have,” but have become essential for the NCR to maintain.
CAD systems have been used widely by 911 centers for decades, and the need for interoperability across jurisdictions, as well as regionally, is not new. The NCR’s efforts to develop a regional CAD2CAD capability have been an excellent first step, but these efforts also have exposed some fundamental differences between jurisdictions related to fire and emergency medical services (EMS) dispatch and operations.
Officials in the NCR identified three specific areas where the CAD2CAD initiative faced its greatest challenges:
- Development of a governance structure and a clear future vision for the initiative
- A documented step-by-step technical process required for participation
- A plan and process for adding new jurisdictions, technologies and disciplines to the initiative
“Essentially, all participating groups needed to take a step back and identify some ways that we could make this model sustainable long term,” said Roy Oliver, director of public safety communications for Fairfax County. “We needed to establish rules and regulations that could be applied to the model moving forward, institute an application, review and approval process that could be used as new jurisdictions approached us about joining and identify what the model’s governing body ultimately looked like.”
The NCR CAD2CAD model also faced funding issues. The initiative originally was funded by Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) grant money; however, as UASI funding becomes more competitive each year, the participating jurisdictions need to identify and implement a cost-sharing structure and prepare to bear, and budget for, the cost of maintaining and expanding CAD2CAD capability at the local level, to maintain UASI grant eligibility.
The NCR CAD2CAD participating agencies tasked Mission Critical Partners (MCP) with assessing the current CAD2CAD setup and conduct interviews with various stakeholders to identify specific challenges and lay out a plan for the initiative’s future. Following the assessment, MCP worked with the jurisdictions to develop a strategic plan that provides a roadmap for the next 10 years, specifically outlining the management and expansion of CAD2CAD capabilities in the NCR for the future.
“It was really important that we help those groups participating in the NCR CAD2CAD model develop a roadmap to help maintain and grow the program,” said John Chiaramonte, MCP’s president of consulting services. “With a strong governance structure in place, the strategic plan will help the NCR continue its successful CAD2CAD implementation well into the future.”
While agencies participating in the NCR’s CAD2CAD initiative already have seen success with significantly reduced response times, the strategic plan laid out by MCP provided them with a plan and tools to develop the structure needed for continued success. Since the plan was finalized and accepted by the participating jurisdictions, the region has made efforts to implement some of the recommendations within.
“While we had been successful with our CAD2CAD efforts on a smaller level, we knew that if we intended to grow and expand the program, we would need to identify regulations and processes for doing so,” Oliver said. “MCP’s support has given us the roadmap for continued success and we’re working hard to implement their recommendations over time.”
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