Part IV: Innovations

Manatee 9-1-1 Center

The “way we do things around here” is a double-edge sword for Stacy Needham and on the one side, the very reason she is a perfect fit among early adopters.

The Chief of Emergency Communications, Manatee 9-1-1, Bradenton, Florida (USA), encourages staff involvement to make decisions. Keeping status quo or putting off change, however, is the side of the sword she resists.

Engaging staff is the way she does things, Needham said. To illustrate the importance of joint decision-making, as described at the Early Adopters Seminar, she developed a team approach to select a CAD system compatible with the next generation migration process. The center was planning several technological changes and the last thing she wanted was a system that did not live up to expectations. She did not want to make a choice only a few could work with.

“Guidance in the process was necessary,” she said. “Feedback̶̶—what really works—has to come from the ones who would be using it 12 hours a day.”

Needham collected feedback from a committee composed of telecommunicators along a spectrum of experience. They volunteered to help form the decision: what would really work for veteran to new staff with minimal disruption in the transition. As a local initiative the choice had to reflect the unique aspects of their PSAP and jurisdiction.

Those not participating in the committee were kept in the loop. They were briefed about the various systems tested and the features that optimized their operational goals. Needham wanted to steer clear of any surprises on the floor when everything was in place.

“I didn’t want anyone thinking they were losing control because of the changes,” she said.

There were practical considerations, of course, and specifications they could not ignore. The path to Next Generation 9-1-1 would not happen all at once, but in manageable stages, and the entire package had to bring added benefits to responders and citizens, in addition to staff.

“Everyone was excited about bringing in the new technology,” Needham said.

At the same time, she had to impress the operational point-of-view. No choice could guarantee 100% satisfaction across the board.

“Success is about bringing people into the same room and finding out what will work best for them. It can be a bumpy road where you come up a little and go down a little along the way.”

The Early Adopters Seminar follows a like course. It’s about coming together, talking, and seeing what is working for others, Needham said.

“At the end of the day, we’re all in it for the same reason,” she said. “We want to keep it real for the 911 center. That’s why the seminar exists.”

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