1.1.1 Extended ring times. Answering the call is our number one priority. Based on observation (reporting is unavailable at this time), the average ring time for calls is higher than desired.
1.1.2 Lack of 24/7 supervisor coverage. Currently there are only four supervisor positions assigned for coverage on the floor, with the QA supervisor filling in as needed. This does not provide adequate coverage to always provide for a supervisor on duty, especially when a supervisor is using PTO or other leave time.
1.1.3 Complex procedures for scheduling. Scheduling has become complex and difficult for front-line supervisors to manage. The current system uses paper forms, a spreadsheet, and rotating note cards.
1.1.4 Complex and repetitive procedures for fire dispatching. Procedures for dispatching fire varies significantly between departments, which increases the time it takes to process a call correctly for dispatch. There is also a large amount of repetitive radio traffic when dispatching fire calls.
1.1.5 EMS dispatching is complex. While CCCDA is the primary PSAP answering EMS calls, those calls are dispatched by three centers: CCCDA, LifeCare, and Emergent Health Partners. This creates a challenge as unit availability and location is not known by all centers, sometimes resulting in multiple phone calls and radio transmissions to determine the best available EMS response.
1.1.6 Lack of formalized communication plans. Formalized communication plans lack from both a normal response prospective, but also for events (planned and unplanned). These plans would assist both dispatch and field responders with clear expectations for communication capabilities and processes.
1.1.7 Extensive paper forms and documents. Additional work needs to be done to move paper documents into an electronic format. This not only has a positive environmental impact, it also will assist with reducing physical storage and improve accessibility to documents, especially remotely.
1.1.8 Employee retention. Currently, 58% of our emergency telecommunicators have been employed with CCCDA for five years or less.
1.1.9 Current facility is spread out with units separated. The current facility layout creates several challenges. The most apparent challenge is the separation of key administrative positions. It is important to have a united administrative team and being two floors apart creates challenges. Administrative offices are also on different floors from the dispatch operations, which makes it difficult to supervise and support those in the dispatch room. The facility also lacks dedicated meeting and training space.
1.1.10 LEIN services and FOIA requests are time consuming. Currently, a telecommunicator is entering LEIN entries such as warrants, PPOs, and conditional bonds. LEIN duties are very time-consuming, especially when call-taking responsibilities are required. Additionally, the prosecutor’s office submits a large number of requests for incident data and audio recordings.
1.1.11 Review and update SOPs. The department has thorough SOPs in place; however they need to be reviewed and in some cases updated. 1.1.12 Increase Behavior and Mental Health Services. Procedures and training need to adapt to new and emerging resources, such as 988. For staff, support services are imperative in this profession as telecommunicators are exposed to trauma with little closure to most incidents handled.
OPERATIONS 1.2 GOALS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
1.2.1 Reduce call answering times. Workload needs to be evaluated to determine areas to improve this metric. Areas for action may include a staffing study, evaluate the distribution of activities on the dispatch floor, and efficiencies through data sharing platforms, to reduce phone calls.
1.2.2 Schedule 24/7 supervisor coverage. Solutions may include the continuation and refinement of the acting supervisor positions and/or a staffing study.
1.2.3 Simplify scheduling procedures. Improvements would come from reviewing policies, the collective bargaining agreement, and implementation of a scheduling program to replace the current spreadsheet and note cards being used.
1.2.4 Standardize fire dispatching procedures. Areas for evaluation include alternate systems for delivering dispatch data, in addition to voice, replace some repetitive dispatch traffic. This additional radio traffic can jeopardize fire operations when sharing the same frequency. Additionally, a comprehensive look at procedures to involve all fire agencies could assist with unifying procedures. Assisting in the implementation of MABAS may also provide relief in this area.
1.2.5 Improve communication lines for EMS dispatching. Engage with the secondary dispatch agencies to evaluate ways to share information and best process calls.
1.2.6 Improve employee retention. CCCDA trends should be evaluated against regional, state, and national trends. Employee input is recommended to determine what could incentivize longevity.
1.2.7 Implement electronic data sharing such as CAD to CAD and ASAP to PSAP to reduce call volume. These systems can reduce call volume by transferring data directly into the CAD system for dispatch. ASAP to PSAP allows alarm companies to verify addresses and enter calls directly into CAD, reducing dispatch time and phone calls. CAD to CAD allows other dispatch centers to send calls into our CAD system, which reduces phone calls and transfers.
1.2.8 Update facility space. Re-configure space in current facility to provide a training room and unified admin workspaces. Long term, a facility space that keeps all organizational units within close proximity.
1.2.9 Identify ways to reduce LEIN workload from telecommunciators. Evaluate current staffing model, along with opportunities to move that work into an administrative position rather than consuming a telecommunicator.
1.2.10 Reduce FOIA processing requests. Evaluate ways to simplify the process, in addition to exploring options to share information more efficiently with the prosecutor’s office. These options may include direct access to call data and/or providing certification of records in place of in-person court appearances.
1.2.11 Increase use of electronic communication and data storage/sharing. Continue and expand the implementation of electronic processes for human resource functions, scheduling, and document management.
1.2.12 Oversee emergency radio communication plans. Serve as the communication unit leader to assist agencies in creating ICS-205 forms. Develop a countywide emergency communications plan.
1.2.13 Institute field dispatching. Develop a team of dispatchers trained and able to assist at or near the command unit with communication needs and dispatching.
1.2.14 Review and update all SOPs at least annually. SOPs should be current and reflective of best practices and accepted standards. 1.2.15 Increase resources and training related to behavioral and mental health. Review resources and training for employees, increase awareness of resources available for employees, and potentially hire an on-call clinician. Adapt to changing standards and services, including integration with 988. Train on the impact that call classification and CAD notes can have on a response.
1.3 METRICS FOR SUCCESS
1.3.1 Reach/maintain compliance with NENA-STA-020.1-2020, 911 Call Processing Standard. This standard, in part, states: Ninety percent (90%) of all 911 calls arriving at the Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) SHALL be answered within (≤) fifteen (15) seconds. Ninety-five (95%) of all 911 calls SHOULD be answered within (≤) twenty (20) seconds.
1.3.2 Reach/maintain compliance with call processing times within NFPA standard 1221. This standard sets two benchmark times with specific compliance criteria for call handling: 90% of all emergency calls must be processed within 64 seconds or less (from the time a 911 call is answered until the fire department is alerted) and 95% of all emergency calls must be processed within 106 seconds or less.
1.3.3 Improved employee retention rates. Decrease percentage of employees with under five years’ experience (currently 58%).
1.3.4 Reduction in use of paper products.
1.3.5 Reduction in phone calls/increase in data sharing use.
TECHNOLOGY 2.1 IDENTIFIED CHALLENGES:
2.1.1 Radio coverage is insufficient. There are currently multiple radio systems used in the county for 911 dispatch and emergency communications. Fire department agencies are primarily on VHF, while law enforcement utilizes the Michigan Public Safety Communication System (MPSCS). The VHF radio system coverage has been reduced as a result of narrowbanding, which was required by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to be completed by 2013. Additionally, the MPSCS system does not provide sufficient coverage in some urban areas but is especially lacking in the southern part of the county. In some areas of the county, law enforcement must use a car radio. This is a significant hazard for first responders that may need help and most likely will not be near their vehicle.
2.1.2 VHF radio system is approaching end of life. The backbone of the system is dated, with spare parts being collected from neighboring counties who have decommissioned their systems. There are many points of failure that can result in system outages.
2.1.3 Interoperability for public safety communication is strained. The lack of a unified public safety communication radio system in the county creates challenges for communication between police, fire, and EMS within the county. Communication systems are not optimal when it comes to working with agencies from outside of the county, either. Most of our surrounding counties primarily utilize the MPSCS, including Barry, Eaton, Jackson, and Kalamazoo Counties. In addition to the desperate systems within the county, agencies on the MPSCS system utilize multiple encryption keys which are not standard on the MPSCS network.
2.1.4 Lack of redundant or back-up systems. Many systems lack redundancies, including computer systems, radio console connection, radio tower links, and more. Some systems lack geo-diversity as well as power diversity. This creates vulnerabilities to critical systems when they are needed the most.
2.1.5 Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) reaching end of life. CCCDA currently utilizes OneSolution by CentralSquare for CAD. This product was acquired by CentralSquare in 2018 as part of a large merger of CAD platforms. OneSolution is no longer a premier product. This product, when owned by OSSI, was a premier CAD system in Michigan. However, there are now fewer than 150 PSAPs in the country using it. While the product is still being maintained, the company does not intend to do an architecture update, which is believed to be needed with newer versions of Windows. Many agencies using this product in Michigan have migrated to a new system or are in the process of doing so.
2.1.6 Lack of unified public alerting system. Some communities currently utilize Nixle for alerts, however CCCDA is not participating in an alert system. Such an alert system could assist with providing traffic alerts similar to those currently being provided on Facebook, along with assisting our agencies with providing timely warnings to the public.
2.1.7 Outdated outdoor warning siren activation system. The current outdoor warning siren system does not provide two-way communication, which would allow dispatch and emergency management to see in real-time if a siren needs maintenance. Two-way communication would improve the reliability of the system. Activations are also done using a simple two-tone system, which is vulnerable to activations by bad actors. Finally, the system shares an active frequency, which could lead to failures if that frequency is in use at the time of activation.
TECHNOLOGY 2.2 GOALS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
2.2.1 Institute a common public safety radio system. The most cost-effective option would be to expand the MPSCS infrastructure within the county.
Add 3-4 additional towers.
Convert all towers in the county into a simulcast system.
Consider re-locating equipment on tower 5706 in Battle Creek to a taller, sturdier tower located on publicly owned property.
Purchase user radio equipment for all agencies in the county to be managed by CCCDA.
Migrate law enforcement onto one standard encryption key.
Create interoperable talkgroups that can be used by police, fire, and EMS during emergencies.
2.2.2 Build systems that are redundant and robust. As technology is being upgraded, back-up and redundancies should be included in system design.
2.2.3 Complete a redundancy/power audit. With the help of county IT and vendors analyze the stability, vulnerability, and redundancy of systems.
2.2.4 Replace CAD system. A workgroup should be created comprising of CCCDA personnel and field personnel to select the best CAD system for our county. Considerations should include integration options with neighboring PSAPS, fire reporting, agency alerting, records management systems (RMS), LEIN, and other features that the workgroup prioritizes.
2.2.5 Explore CCCDA managed mobile computers and/or tablets. Just as a common platform for a radio system is important, properly managed field devices can also assist both field responders and emergency telecommunicators.
2.2.6 Select a common public alerting system. Work with our emergency management agencies and local municipalities to select a common alerting system with shared costs and shared management. This system should be capable of alerts via phone, email, text, app, social media platforms, and integrated with IPAWS. Such a collaboration would provide an increase in service to residents and allow for the quicker and more efficient sharing of emergency information with the public.
2.2.7 Upgrade outdoor warning siren communication system. The system should be upgraded to be on dedicated frequencies, using encrypted activation, two-way communication, and automatic activation.
TECHNOLOGY 2.3 METRICS FOR SUCCESS:
2.3.1 Deployment of a common radio system.
2.3.2 Decrease in down-time of systems.
2.3.3 Purchase of a CAD system.
2.3.4 Implementation of a common public alerting system.
2.3.5 Installation of an upgraded outdoor warning siren activation system.
FUNDING 3.1 IDENTIFIED CHALLENGES
3.1.1 Current funding model does not support capital costs. In order to balance the costs to municipalities, it is understandable that costs have been contained. To achieve this, the authority has not been successful in implementing or preparing for needed capital improvements.
3.1.2 The CFS formula was designed as an alternate solution. The Fiscal Administration section of the Interlocal Agreement specified an Initial Funding Plan for the first five (5) years of operations; 2009-2013. The revenues specified in the Initial Funding Plan was comprised of a combination of state and local 911 surcharge monies, and general fund tax dollars which were contributed by the signatories of the Interlocal Agreement.
The CCCDA Governing Board of Directors was tasked with implementing an Alternative Funding Plan in accordance with the Interlocal Agreement that would take effect at the conclusion of or prior to the end of the Initial Funding Plan. The CCCDA Governing Board of Directors would determine the most appropriate, equitable and beneficial way to continue financing consolidated dispatch.
In accordance with the Interlocal Agreement, CCCDA’s Governing Board of Directors spent a year and a half (April 2010 – November 2011) evaluating eight (8) different future funding options for consolidated dispatch. This included public forums and presentations to municipalities and citizens to gather feedback as to what they felt was “Fair and Equitable.” As a result of the feedback received, the CCCDA Governing Board of Directors requested that a Local 911 Surcharge Proposal be placed on the August 7, 2012 ballot by the Board of Commissioners to allow citizens to choose whether or not to fund 911 and public safety dispatch services entirely with surcharge monies or, if the proposal failed, to implement the alternative funding plan – Call for Service Formula. The educational message delivered by CCCDA was this ballot proposal was a choice between a surcharge and a Call for Service Formula. It was repeatedly stated that if the surcharge did not pass, the Call for Service Formula would be instituted.
The Local 911 Surcharge ballot proposal on August 7, 2012 failed by 63 votes and the CCCDA Governing Board of Directors immediately thereafter approved the implementation of the Call for Service Formula effective July 1, 2013.
3.1.3 The CFS formula model (user fee) is not always predictable for municipal budgeting. Over the course of the last ten years, the revenue collected through the calls for service formula has fluctuated and has not kept pace with average inflation over that period, as illustrated below.
3.1.4 The FY23 budget will not support the current level of service without additional revenue. The amended FY22 budget was balanced by utilizing $154,410.43 of fund balance. Considering that the capital improvements are budgeted at $95,000, CCCDA has a structural deficit. The only alternatives are to increase revenues or to reduce expenses. Considering that most of our costs our fixed and based on needed personnel or materials, reductions to expenses will impact service delivery. Please see the below illustrations of FY22 expenditure for further.
FUNDING 3.2 GOALS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
In order to provide both stable funding for operations, but also funding for capital projects identified in this document, it will be necessary to seek and adopt a new model for funding.
The below options include operational expenses for the authority, in addition to debt service for $17M over 10 years, to be utilized towards capital projects.
The below tables will have several columns, defined as:
Surcharge- This is projected revenue from a county-level surcharge.
User Fee- This projection is the amount needed to make up a shortfall between expenses and revenue. A user fee would need to be defined as either the continuation of the CFS formula, or some other equipment lease agreement, as an example.
Other- This includes other funding sources, such as state 911 surcharge distribution, lease revenue, or other service agreement revenue.
Property Tax- This would include revenue from a property tax dedicated to 911, if approved by the voters.
The funding recommendation includes a 0.98 mill ballot proposal. The 60¢/line per month surcharge would remain in place. Additionally, to accomplish the objectives in this document, a user fee system would still be necessary (but reduced by approximately 71%). For comparison purposes, the user fees assessed in FY22 total $2,492,928.