Glitch reported in SF computer-aided dispatch

May 13, 2011 7:00:32 PM PDT
Cops on patrol in San Francisco had to go "old school" because of a computer problem. When the emergency dispatch system they depend on for vital information went down, they had to rely on Plan "B".

The 911 calls were still coming in to dispatch at the Department of Emergency Services. But the calls were sent to officers and firefighters, not through their field laptops, but by the old fashioned way -- radio.

"Officers had to rely on writing on pieces of paper the information that was being given to us via the radio," said San Francisco Public Information Officer Albie Esparza.

That's because the Computer-Aided Dispatch system, called CAD, went down Thursday morning.

When dispatchers receive 911 calls, the information goes into the computer and it pops up on the mobile data terminals in patrol cars and fire trucks. The CAD failure was apparently caused by problems with the server.

Even though, dispatchers were able to enter the information into a backup system, those in the field still couldn't retrieve the information on their laptops. However, emergency services said there's been no disruption to 911 calls.

"The information about going to call, responding to a call, is still being relayed by a radio," said Laura Adleman from the San Francisco Department of Emergency Services.

Patrol officers say CAD enables them to scan more information than dispatchers can provide by radio.

"You could be running subjects on the computer. You can be checking for calls of service that's pending. You can read information about a specific call without having to tie up the radio," said Esparza.

And that's the most important thing. Being able to use their laptop clears the radio for more immediate calls.

"...Emergency situations such as foot pursuit or struggling with a suspect or something more serious when we want to keep the air clear," said Esparza.

On Friday afternoon, Emergency Services announced the CAD system was back up and that police and firefighters could once again get service calls through their laptops.

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