In the expanding realm of communications and information exchange, CAD, or computer-aided dispatching, represents the industry standard in data management. While the acronym has applications in other fields, computer-aided dispatching in sectors such as public safety/security, transportation/delivery, and utility/service, is unmistakably identified with the term, CAD. In use since the latter part of the 20th century, national standards for CAD’s application in law enforcement in 2003, set the tone for its enhanced quality in other sectors with a team-in-the-field component.
CAD’s Benefits Start Even Before the Call for Help is Answered
Regardless of how a call for service or other event comes to the attention of a service provider, the modern CAD system is in use immediately. For instance, a structure fire reported by a caller through the 911 system is managed through CAD from the moment the call is placed. The integrated automatic location indicator (ALI) displays the caller’s location the moment the phone connects, even before the 911 dispatcher answers the call.
CAD software works in conjunction with an organization’s records management system (RMS), and the harmonious partnership between technology and the human element continues to increase productivity. In the previous structure fire example, the 911 dispatcher’s screen will auto-populate with details about the location, caller, and units needed to respond. At the same time, CAD’s connection to mobile technology conveys essential information to firefighters and command officers as they respond to the scene. Valuable data related to hydrant location, hazardous materials, and traffic conditions are at the fingertips of first responders through in-vehicle laptops, smartphones, or nearly any internet-connected device.
In other areas of the emergency communications center, 911 personnel utilize the shared CAD information to coordinate additional efforts related to the fire scene. Law enforcement dispatchers can notify patrol supervisors of the incident, and the management of traffic control or other policing duties can immediately begin. EMS and Ambulance dispatchers will notify ambulance crews, medical helicopters, and hospital emergency departments as the circumstances dictate. Finally, as more information is gathered, both through additional 911 calls and from fire crews at the scene, it is entered into CAD and instantly available to those involved and later, for after-action evaluations.
CAD and Extended Incident Management
Managing large-scale incidents, including those with an extended duration, can offer several areas in which challenges are present. CAD can help alleviate some of those challenges concerning data organization. The Incident Command System (ICS) typically implements a 12-hour shift for on-duty personnel. Known as an operational period, it naturally involves the rotation of command-level personnel as well. The CAD system can be invaluable for maintaining a permanent log of activities throughout an operational period and making the information available for other shifts.
Consider the example of a major hurricane. Implementing ICS will bring together public, private, and non-governmental service organizations for an extended time. As the storm approaches, each operational period will have 12 hours of important data memorialized in a CAD system. Incident commanders will utilize this data to oversee crucial live-saving efforts such as evacuations, shelter management, and continuity of services. During and after the storm, these and additional efforts continue, and CAD remains a vital tool for incident management and evaluation.
Mission Specific Uses of CAD
The advantages of CAD for large events, as outlined above, can be proportionally transferred to individual units within an organization. Instead of wide-scale management of incidents such as a flood, wildfire, or even a pandemic, CAD more frequently demonstrates its advantages in day to day operations associated with public safety.
For example, those units within local law enforcement specializing in criminal investigations, often find the troves of data in an agency’s CAD system beneficial to their mission. Detectives, crime analysts, and forensic specialists frequently rely on information about a case that began with a 911 call or other response from the patrol function within an agency. CAD represents one of the best places to gather details about the initial incident, including information on the 911 caller and their location, any notes or chats which occurred in the mobile feature of CAD, and historical information about any suspects or potential witnesses.
Crime analysts also use the CAD system’s data in establishing times lines, crime trends, and linking incidents that could be associated with the other cases. Additionally, the innovative use of data in predictive analytics, hot spots identification, police intelligence software allows policing by argner information from an agency’s CAD and integrated RMS. Further, CAD allows patrol units to evaluate data related to traffic patterns, school resource officers to enhance threat analysis and shifts in suspicious activity, and SWAT members to find details about known hazards at various locations.
CAD is More Than a Dispatching Tool
The examples noted above demonstrate not only some of the benefits of CAD but also the system’s versatility. While the “D” stands for dispatching, the 21st century CAD system has evolved far beyond its name. Nearly any organization with team members in the field can benefit from the ease at which information is exchanged through a CAD system. Communication is no longer limited to the two-way radio. Instead, CAD and its connected mobile devices serve as enhancements and complements to traditional radio transmissions, thereby enhancing safety, increasing productivity, and improving efficiency.