When agencies use shared information systems, rather than operating separate facilities and applications, they can save up to ninety percent of the total cost of ownership. The more participants, the greater the savings. This being the case, one might imagine that agencies would be clamoring for shared systems.
But, new systems are acquired infrequently, and they are usually financed using grants or capital funds that are are separate from operational funding. Consequently, for an individual agency, reducing the cost of systems does not necessarily mean more firefighters or police officers.
Savings accrue most prominently to states and the federal government, consequently grant programs are being structured to favor various forms of consolidation. Similarly, county governments are using budget and political pressure to force municipalities to consolidate systems and eliminate redundancy.
But there are operational benefits for individual agencies, the value of which often exceeds the cost benefits that typically motivate systems consolidation.
Not only do neighboring call centers and the agencies they dispatch share a common operating picture, but they can initiate common coordinated action. For example, incident assignment and status routes instantly to coordinators of a multiagency response in two or more dispatch centers.
Interagency dispatch activation, under mutual aid and automatic aid agreements, is fully automated. On a shared system, workflow can be tailored to reflect standard operating procedures and ensure compliance.
When one location has an unexpected high call volume, workload can transfer instantly to another facility that has capacity available.
In a disaster, any facility can serve as a backup for any other.
Unified reporting and analytics across agencies provide a complete picture of regional response effectiveness, and provides a basis for regional process improvement and measuring progress.
In the near future, with NG911 systems based on I3 PSINets, it will be possible to route calls dynamically based on the location and availability of response resources, virtually eliminating time-consuming call transfers.
Law Enforcement Benefits
Relevant information is delivered to responders where and when it is needed. For example, a license plate query returns not only vehicle and owner information, but recent queries, citations, and involvements from all cooperating agencies.
Officers operating outside of their home zones are automatically notified of urgent situations nearby regardless of agency affiliation.
Situational awareness is available to all participants in a multi-agency response.
Messages and status information attached to shared incidents are immediately available to all parties, even when there are multiple dispatch centers involved.
Task forces and special investigations can be easily set up to share records and case data across agencies.
Right on Mark! It is my sincere belief that as IP networks start connecting disparate agencies together more multi-agency situational awareness tools will be come prevalent. I am hoping the NG911 flurry if it does nothing else, builds connections between dispatch centers which will put the plumbing in place for multiagency solutions. I think we are where we are today (like you highlight) due to historical budget cycles and procurement rules along political jurisdictional boundaries. The one thing that busts through politics is the almighty dollar!