Interstate Cameras

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smithw14

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Ok, so we’ve got this fancy, expensive, and elaborate camera system setup for the interstate system in the greater Birmingham area. I don’t doubt that at any given point half of it is probably broken, but none the less, I’m sure it is there working in some form or fashion. I also know that both the Birmingham Police radio room and Birmingham Fire communications has access to look at and (I believe) move these cameras. In theory, this was supposed to aide in the dispatch of emergency personnel to wrecks and other events on the interstate, so that valuable time is not wasted coordinating emergency response or dispatching to the wrong location.

For all of my fellow forum members who have, like I, dispatched for jurisdictions that cover interstates, you know that people who call in for emergencies 9 times out of 10 give out the wrong exit they are near, say they are northbound when they are southbound, or vise-versa. This greatly slows response from both fire and police. So having a camera system dispatchers or call takers can quickly pull up and check to verify locations is a great *idea*.

So, back to the cameras. Birmingham has them – and over the years, I’ve always wondered why I never hear anybody referencing them either on the fire side or the police side. On the FD side, I cant tell you how many times I hear back and forth traffic from dispatchers to apparatus trying to figure out the exact location of interstate wrecks or other events (check the callback number - - - no callback number - - - check with police - - - police have no further information - - - is this before the exit or after the exit……etc). 3, 4, 5+ minutes of delays can add up when somebody is dying.

Well, over the past two weeks, I heard two references to our million dollar camera system on the police side. One night an officer responding to a wreck with injuries on the interstate asked the dispatcher to verify the location on the cameras so he could figure out which entrance to get on. The response: “I don’t know how to work them and the only dispatcher who does is on break.”

And just today – an officer asked the dispatcher to see if she could find a wreck on the interstate on the cameras. The sarcastic response: “I’m gonna have to get up and walk all the way across to the other side of the radio room to look, but if you REALLY want me to go…”


Wonderful.


-William
 

smithw14

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Thats pretty cool. Yeah, our FD and PD don't really talk to or coordinate with each other too well. They let each other do their own thing. FD will roll up on scene, look around, find nothing, get in service - nobody will tell PD so they can cancel the officer. 10 min later officer says he cant find anything, PD dispatcher calls FD and gets told "oh, they went in service - they couldn't find anything either." FD will go on serious medical calls that require an officer and will stage until police arrive. However, no one tells the PD that FD is staging (or at least it never gets relayed to the officer). So officer is easing his way over to the scene in no hurry while people are bleeding out. Blah, I could go on - but I'm digressing into a new topic. ha ha.
 
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wonder how the ShotSpotter system doing? I've heard a few dispatches based on it but not as many as I expected. While we are on the subject of technology use (abuse?) I wonder when BHMPD will be able to use their MDT's for CAD & not just checking tags & wanted files? Jefferson County Deputies & some small agencies like Trussville PD have been doing this for years!
 

smithw14

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KD4NII said:
Jefferson County Deputies & some small agencies like Trussville PD have been doing this for years!
...not to mention 95% of the western half of the US! I imagine Birmingham will slowly, eventually catch up. I believe we have a good police chief in office to bring some of these progressive things to the table. On the shot spotter - I have heard it on again off again too.

Rolling on our new technology theme - Birmingham needs an air unit. Manned 24/7 - an "eye in the sky" would be so beneficial to our guys on the ground. It is expensive, no doubt, but if a program can be setup and done right (i.e. don't pull a Jefferson County S.O. - roll one out in a big news release, then roll it back in the hanger and leave it there), then it can work and be good for not only Birmingham but the metro area. Partner with metro area jurisdictions, have radio systems integrated with the air unit, and allow frequent and EASY mutual aid requesting and use - I do believe then you can do some cost sharing and provide an excellent service for the metro area.

Ok - my two cents for tonight :)
 
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I hear YA, with all the money Birmingham & Jefferson County wastes you would think they could redirect some of it to a chopper. Tuscaloosa Police had one back in the early 90's that they actually used, I guess they still do. I'm not that familiar with helicopters but I think it was one of those like we have all seen on MASH.
I heard a lot of fleeing suspects captured and that was without FLIR - just one VERY bright spotlight!
 

TechnoDave

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Ok, gotta chime in here.
Interstate Cameras... yes, most of them are broken in the areas we need them the worst. No camera anywhere inbetween the Airport Exit and the 22nd Street exit.... therefore, the busiest wreck areas (tallapoosa, 31st st, carraway) are not visible. Due to construction all cameras on 65NB from the interchange have been turned off. There have never been working cameras in the interchange of 59/65.
Nextly, its not as simple as "pulling it up" on our terminals. We have one computers in the radio room that does the cameras. Not all dispatchers can reach it because headset cords are only so long. We are not wireless yet. No, not all dispatchers cared to learn how to operate it... although they have been shown. But some of us do use it if we can get to it and you will hear me reference it by using the term "eye in the sky".

No, communications between the PD and FD are not what they should be. Some of us (ok, me) monitor the FD traffic if I am not too busy and try to relay what I hear if it is relative.

MDT CAD is coming. There are different opinions on what software to go with, its not cheap regardless of who you choose. Im sure it was a lot cheaper for Trussville to outfit their 8 cars with it than it is going to be for Birmingham and their fleet.

Shotspotter is working well. There are a boatload of sensors out there in certain areas and a couple of arrest have been made because of it. Hopefully their presence is why you are not hearing too many dispatches about it. They know its out there.

A helicopter has been discussed for years. There are two reasons I know I have heard as to why we dont have one. First off is because you can't have a bird in the air 24/7 ..... let say it flies during the daylight hours only..... pretty useless to the morning shift guys that are chasing in the dark. .... ok,.... let say it runs during the early morning hours..... pretty useless to the dayshift guys chasing bank robbers. Unless you have a fleet of helicopters... they are pretty much nothing more than a "play pretty".
The second reason I have heard is due to the fact that Birmingham is RIGHT SLAP DAB IN THE MIDDLE of the landing zone for the BHM airport. Having a helicopter zipping around all day might just become a little dangerous. (Unlike Lifesaver that is out there just every now and then)


Ok, I think I touched on all the subjects.
 

smithw14

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BHAMDISPATCHER said:
Ok, gotta chime in here.
Interstate Cameras... yes, most of them are broken in the areas we need them the worst. No camera anywhere inbetween the Airport Exit and the 22nd Street exit.... therefore, the busiest wreck areas (tallapoosa, 31st st, carraway) are not visible. Due to construction all cameras on 65NB from the interchange have been turned off. There have never been working cameras in the interchange of 59/65.
Nextly, its not as simple as "pulling it up" on our terminals. We have one computers in the radio room that does the cameras. Not all dispatchers can reach it because headset cords are only so long. We are not wireless yet. No, not all dispatchers cared to learn how to operate it... although they have been shown. But some of us do use it if we can get to it and you will hear me reference it by using the term "eye in the sky".

No, communications between the PD and FD are not what they should be. Some of us (ok, me) monitor the FD traffic if I am not too busy and try to relay what I hear if it is relative.

MDT CAD is coming. There are different opinions on what software to go with, its not cheap regardless of who you choose. Im sure it was a lot cheaper for Trussville to outfit their 8 cars with it than it is going to be for Birmingham and their fleet.

Shotspotter is working well. There are a boatload of sensors out there in certain areas and a couple of arrest have been made because of it. Hopefully their presence is why you are not hearing too many dispatches about it. They know its out there.

A helicopter has been discussed for years. There are two reasons I know I have heard as to why we dont have one. First off is because you can't have a bird in the air 24/7 ..... let say it flies during the daylight hours only..... pretty useless to the morning shift guys that are chasing in the dark. .... ok,.... let say it runs during the early morning hours..... pretty useless to the dayshift guys chasing bank robbers. Unless you have a fleet of helicopters... they are pretty much nothing more than a "play pretty".
The second reason I have heard is due to the fact that Birmingham is RIGHT SLAP DAB IN THE MIDDLE of the landing zone for the BHM airport. Having a helicopter zipping around all day might just become a little dangerous. (Unlike Lifesaver that is out there just every now and then)


Ok, I think I touched on all the subjects.

I was waiting for you to chime in! :) As far as the cameras go (and the communication between the FD/PD for that matter), whether it is due to bad planning, poor technology, apathetic dispatchers, or reckless dispatchers, it is still a shame that the tools that are supposed to work don’t, and that some of the people who are supposed to work them don’t or can’t. But that’s life unfortunately. But none the less it should be improved.

Glad to hear MDT’s and CAD is coming – as I am sure you are too! “10-9 that location [for the 5th time]?” Also glad to hear shot spotter is working as well.

That is true that you can’t run a chopper 24/7. The city would I suppose have to invest in 2, but they should be fully staffed 24/7. But even cities that do have air support do not run their choppers 24/7. They go out on patrols, come back, and sit – go out again, come back, sit. And of course, respond immediately when ground units/other jurisdictions request them. I know this is in large part due to fuel costs, but possibly to counter constant wear and tear on the aircraft as well. I am skeptical about the airport being too close to the city – so many other cities with airports in the heart of them have air units, there would just be some logistical things worked out (such as keep out of the approach/departure path for one!). But I’m no aviation expert.

Thanks for your thoughts David.
 

dave911

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I'm really surprised to hear that the PD can't use the MDT CAD. The Fire Department can. You can see the Lt. using it in beginning of this video when we were heading to 14's territory on a house fire... http://www.dave911.com/video/2007/20070713BFRS_Engine1c.wmv I guess it's, like you said, a matter of numbers. Good luck! I know you'll be glad when the cars have them.
 

TechnoDave

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On a further note about the MDT/CAD... us scannerheads will not be real happy with them. In talking with the Chief, he said Hoover has gone to A LOT of silent dispatch, whereas the calls are sent to the screen and never a word is said on the radio. High Priority or multi-unit calls are still dispatched via the airwaves. If the MDT/CAD comes we (the scannerheads) may not hear as much traffic as we are used to.
 

commstar

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Hey guys, greetings from Spokane, Wa. Was trolling your forum and just wanted to make a couple of comments.

1. Traffic Cams: Traffic cameras here are used alot by the WSP for coordination. The feeds are also broadcast on a dedicated cable TV channel where each camera where a switcher shows each camera for 10 seconds or so and then moves to the next. The TV stations even broadcast them for traffic reports. I believe most are fixed position as I see no indication that they can be moved remotely.

2, Helicopters. Expensive omg yes. Av gas fuel is like $6.30 a gallon today. Helicopters drink the stuff like a drunk just released from prison. I am retired LE on the west coast and am somewhat familiar with air ops having done some budget and grant writing on the matter a few years ago. My former agency was considering starting such an operation. beyond the fuel costs the insurance to run a helo at night was insane. During the day only, not so bad, but at night you could multiply by three. We also found that for us to run 24/7 we really needed three airships. One day, one nite, and one in maintainance.

For urban law work, one really needs a good sized airship just for the flexibility of toys you need to hang off the thing and the ability to take an observer in addition to the aircrew. R-22 sound great but in the longrun they tend to limit your options. Finally, another true consideration is noise. Sure you can go out and get a military airship donated to you from the DOD but have you heard how loud those things are? your entire city will be up all night long. The bad guys can also tell when you are up and when you are not. Anyway, another agency when this direction and thier city manager grounded the thing due to the citizenry encroaching on city hall with torches and pitchforks over the friggin noise. Notars are the only way to go as they are so quiet (no tail rotor). They are fairly new technology and therefore very very expensive especially when compared to a donated DOD ship. Same city bought a Notar airship and 99%of complaints vanished. Anyway 'we' never went because of the crazy money involved and rely on outside agency's for air support. YMMV.

3. MDT/CAD: have been involved in the transition to MDTs. Your voice traffic naturally drops. Officer safety becomes more of a problem for dispatchers especially if officers create/input incidents from the field themselves. We has a couple of guys who figured out how to disappear by assigning themselves to a non-monitored dispatch group. They would just disappear and never be sent on any calls. Amazing what work shirkers will do to avoid work.Anyway, the biggest difference in my experience is that since every call is not voice broadcast it is real hard to 'know' as a field unit what everyone is doing and where they are. It takes extra time to figure it out in the crisis of the moment. Coordinating units going on scene of a critical or active incident should be using voice or minimally should be echo dispatched when they push that on scene button. Voice is better. '3A21, on scene, west side of the bank, deploying a scattergun' is key officer safety info that is lost when that OS key is pressed without voice.

My opinion is that training, policy and developing best practices here backed up with some initially draconian discipline for all violators is really quite necessary. If those apathetic lazy folks (we all have them) are allowed to step into MDT land without cohesive training and rules, then someone will likely get injured or even killed because of it. MDTs are for routine communications, not for all communications. My .02 cents worth.

Anyway, thanks for letting be invade your forum for a few minutes. Admittedly, I have never been to Birmingham but I have been to Huntsville. I found Alabama to a very nice state and Huntsville I thought was a very livable, clean, friendly gem of a city. Alabama pride has good cause to exist. I hear Birmingham is very similar to Huntville but regrettably did not make it there to see for myself. Perhaps someday.

Best,
Mike
 
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Yep, with CAD comes less voice traffic but I would think that most calls would be dispatched by voice also since an officer might not be in his/her car at the time.
As for the chopper, I'm not a pilot or even very familiar with ATC procedures but I know LA has one (at least) and with all the traffic at LAX they manage. As for Birmingham Fire, I wasn't even aware they had MDT's. Nice video Dave!
 
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emcom

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Madison Co SO has them....always hear their units asking to re-send this or that...can't log in, etc. Sounds like a problematic system. The map would be worth its weight in gold, tho. Especially in the rural areas. Hard to find houses in poorly marked areas where the numbers jump around.
 
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Morgan County SO has GPS based AVL tied into their CAD system & I have heard it come handy on several calls to unmarked rural roads - the 911 maps ARE NOT always correct!
 

morganAL

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KD4NII said:
Morgan County SO has GPS based AVL tied into their CAD system & I have heard it come handy on several calls to unmarked rural roads - the 911 maps ARE NOT always correct!
Along with Decatur PD, Decatur EMS, Trinity PD, Priceville PD, Falkville PD, Game & Fish, Decatur EMS, Lifecare EMS, County EMS, Med-Call, & Samaritan EMS. Decatur Fire will possibly be coming on the system in the future. Trinity PD doesn't have GPS but they still can run tags and receive digital dispatch. The maps on the MDTs ARE the 911 maps.
 
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When did Samaritan EMS come into the area? Never heard of them before. BTW: is Terry's still running calls in Morgan County?
 

morganAL

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KD4NII said:
When did Samaritan EMS come into the area? Never heard of them before. BTW: is Terry's still running calls in Morgan County?
About a year ago. They are based out of Morgan City. Most of them are also members of Brindlee Mtn VFD. Yep Garwood (County EMS) is still here. I forgot that American Ambulance is also running here. I have a funny story about County EMS too.

A while back, Hartselle instituted a new EMS ordinance and Lifecare, County and American were all on board and qualified to run calls in Hartselle. ( I know, 3 services in Hartselle?) Anyway, American and County were suspended from running calls in Hartselle due to a minor violation of the ordinance. (Basically their dispatchers forgot to call the Hartselle dispatcher when they were out of service running calls elsewhere or whatever, although the Hartselle dispatcher has CAD display just like the 911 dispatchers and can see when they are out of service.) This was the final BS straw so American and County pulled out of Hartselle. Lifecare stays out of service almost all of the time because of their contract with the VA Hospital. Garwood said that he runs more calls in Hartselle now than he did when they were on the rotation. And to keep on topic they all have MDTs w/ AVL. County uses Decatur Comm LTR system at Trinity and American uses So Linc.
 
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