Dispatch benefits from digital map

Published 6:43 pm Thursday, November 2, 2017

Jackie Gilbert, 911 dispatch deputy director, of the Farmville Communication Center, spoke at Farmville Town Council’s work session Wednesday regarding a new map that the dispatch center began using in October that allows for greater call accuracy and improves the dispatcher, ability to give directions. Gilbert said Appomattox also has access to the digital map, part of the reason is due to the dispatching of the Pamplin Fire Department and Pamplin EMS.

“Before we had it on a big paper map, and we’d have to leave our console and go get the map, and then we could look at it,” Gilbert said regarding dispatchers giving emergency personnel directions. “Now we don’t have to do that.”

She said a useful thing with the map is it has the option for Google Maps street view, which is available in town. Outside of town, Google Maps only has the aerial view. Having that allows the dispatcher to describe to emergency personnel what the layout of the structure and surrounding area appears to be.

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“We actually have the ability to look at the house and say, ‘It’s white, it’s got a shed in the back,’” Gilbert said. “…It’s going to be a huge asset to help them locate houses.”

She said what may be the best benefit of all is that dispatch is now able to track phone calls from other counties.

“Ninety percent of our calls are coming in from cellphones; probably 10 percent now are landlines, so that accuracy is a priority on locating that caller,” Gilbert said.

She said Sunday dispatch had a 911 caller who was in Appomattox County.

“She’s like, ‘I’ve had an accident and I don’t know where I’m at,’ and immediately, my call populated on the map,” Gilbert said. “…Within three seconds I knew where she was, whereas with the old map, it would show coordinates and give us a big gray area so the dispatcher would actually have to plug in the coordinates into a different screen, but it would not be accurate. So we knew what county they were in, but we just couldn’t tell the dispatcher when we call and transfer that call that, ‘Hey this caller is at this address,’ but now we can.”

She said she wanted to show the town council that dispatch is headed in the right direction given new technology upgrades.

“It sounds like you’re further along advanced as far as tracking this than a lot of localities are,” said At-Large Farmville Town Council Member Thomas Pairet. “You hear people talk about, you know, they’re calling from a cellphone, but they can’t give you the exact location of where they’re from.”