'Data Watchdog' Now Tracking Minneapolis 911 Calls
The people who send help in an emergency have a favorite saying: "Dispatchers save seconds and seconds save lives."
Every second counts. And now those seconds are tracked like never before.
"This is the last 24 hours," said Heather Hunt, director of emergency communications for the city of Minneapolis, as she looked up at a large monitor full of 911 data statistics.
The city, along with Hennepin EMS, recently installed a program called FirstWatch, developed by a San Diego-based company that enables dispatchers to track, in real time, a plethora of metrics and measurements for emergency response.
"You can see what's happening in the city, you can spot and identify trends, you can direct resources to where they need to go," Hunt told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS in an interview Wednesday.
Managers can access the data on computers, laptops, iPads, and iPhones. A typical "dashboard" shows dials of various metrics; for example, the number of incidents requiring more than five response vehicles, which could be an indication of a serious situation, as well as the percentage of calls that are dispatched within the city's time guidelines.
"It will increase accountability," Hunt explained.
The system can instantly spot clusters of crimes, mapping incidents as they happen and sending customized alerts to managers.
Chris Kummer, a manager at Hennepin EMS, says the new software can even detect phrases, such as "flu-like symptoms," in call entries to alert health managers of a possible outbreak.
"Absolutely it could save lives," said Kummer.
The software company's president, Todd Stout, is a former EMT and paramedic who described FirstWatch as simultaneously a "data watchdog" and a "safety net."
"If we can help people - our customers - take care of their patients," Stout said in a Skype interview, "...(then) I feel like I'm continuing what I started."
According to the company, there are 89 million people living in 127 communities that are using the software in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand.
The city of Minneapolis, its 911 center, and Hennepin EMS will split the ongoing, yearly $40,000 cost.
"We're here to make a difference," emergency communications director Hunt explained. "And this is a tool that will help us do a better job."
Watch our story above to learn more.