Henderson County (NC) Emergency Services Director Jimmy Brissie needed a way to communicate effectively across the county’s emergency management, EMS, and rescue squad organizations that operate out of six locations—and the need became especially apparent after they got a new 57,000 square-foot headquarters in 2018.
“We’ve got a lot of building,” Brissie said. “We really wanted to have a system in place that would push information across the entire building, across all three divisions here, so everyone had that situational awareness.”
Henderson County is located in the mountains of western North Carolina. It has a population of about 120,000 that surges in the summer, with about 15,000 EMS calls per year over an area of 375 square miles.
Brissie started looking at digital dashboard options several years ago and considered a couple of different products from various companies. After talking in-depth with First Arriving, he said it was a no-brainer to partner with the company for this roll-out.
“They really worked with us on what I thought was a unique configuration, serving three different organizations at six different locations,” Brissie said. “They were able to customize everything to suit our needs.”
He worked with First Arriving to set up the three entities as sub-accounts of a single system. “The way we’ve got our account configured, we’ve got announcements that are pushed between all three organizations,” he said. “And then each organization even has its own section of the displays where they can display messages and information.”
The county agencies have been using the dashboards at their main station for a few months, and are still in the process of getting them installed in all their additional stations.
“That’s one of the big benefits of our First Arriving deployment, is we’ll have displays that will be in all our stations, providing that kind of seamless, situational awareness,” Brissie said.
Their dashboard data includes real-time weather information, which is critical in the mountains due to highly variable conditions, Brissie said. It is also integrated with their electronic calendar, allowing the three entities using the building to coordinate who is scheduled for what common spaces when, and where members should go when they come in for classes, meetings, and other events.
The county is currently coordinating with First Arriving and an additional vendor to make truck status available on the dashboards, Brissie added, to show active calls for service so crews and supervisors know which trucks are on scene, and which trucks are en-route.
The dashboards are also integrated into their data for who’s on shift, who’s coming in, and what available shifts still need staffing. “Being able to quickly see that information definitely helps the staff’s awareness of who’s going to be relieving them,” Brissie said. “That real-time integration means we don’t have to manage another data point. It’s just done seamlessly.”
They also use the dashboards to push out training opportunities, schedule changes, and to recognize achievements and new hires.
“Having all of that information pushed out to all of the substations ensures that folks that don’t work at the main station get that same information in a timely fashion,” Brissie added.
They also have their alert system integrated, so all of their stations see all of their calls. “So here again—I use the term a lot: situation awareness,” Brissie said. “Everybody knows what calls are going out even if it’s not in their first-due area.” That way, if there’s a need for another resource, staff already have the incident in the back of their mind, he said. “And in many cases,” he added, “those alerts are coming in even before the telecommunicators are able to get the dispatch pushed out because it’s tied in in real-time to the CAD system.”
The groups also use their dashboards for communicating with site visitors. “We do a lot of training at our facility for outside organizations,” Brissie said, “so we found it’s also a good marketing tool.” The displays in their public areas can be used to push out marking materials or details for special events.
The staff have been very pleased with it, and some of the leadership are adding displays in their offices, Brissie said. They’ve also been pleased with Frist Arriving’s support throughout their unique deployment process for three organizations across six locations, he added.
“The team worked with us to find solutions to meet our needs,” Brissie said. “Nothing that we asked about did they come back and say, ‘That’s not possible.’”