BATAVIA, OH — At 11:44 a.m. Feb. 20, an elderly male on a trail at Sycamore Park experienced difficulty breathing. He called 911 on his cell phone, unable to move from the spot several hundred yards off the main parking lot area.
Thanks to earlier collaboration among a number of governmental units, first responders pinpointed the man’s location and brought care within minutes.
Clermont County Public Safety Services, the GIS Division in Community and Economic Development, the Central Joint Fire-EMS District, Clermont County Water Resources and Clermont Soil and Water had worked together to bring more-precise digital maps to dispatchers and first responders.
Through sophisticated Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD), the GIS Division had collaborated with the other entities on the upgraded maps.
“It just goes to show that things that go on behind the scenes can have such a large impact,” said Greg Bickford, Assistant County Administrator. “Who would think that mapping out trails would someday lead to service by first responders?”
John Kiskaden, Director of Public Safety Services, said: “Dispatcher Daniel Cayse used the tools in our toolbox to locate the individual rapidly. One of these tools was that GIS went in and put river mile markers for us. Without these tools in the toolbox, the dispatcher had a harder time doing the job. This time everything worked correctly: The dispatcher got the call, they were able to use the river mile markers to narrow down where the distressed individual was. From the time we received the call to the time of the patient contact was 10 minutes. That’s pretty good. In this case, everything turned out OK.”
GIS Administrator Kelly Perry added: “The dispatcher was fantastic in knowing that they could attach the call to the closest verifiable point, which in this case was a river mile marker and not an address point. They were able to show that the patient was not at the main part of the park, near the entrance, but down a trail. The dispatcher realized if they attached to call to the address, that the responder would have to figure out where he was. They might have known he was down a trail, but the cell phone data allowed them to pinpoint where he was.”
Perry explained that prior to “river miles” being added to the system, the call would have been attached to the address point. River miles markers are digital map markers showing distances from the mouth of a river or stream. Having these markers in the CAD mapping serves to provide additional “verifiable locations” which dispatchers can use as the location for a call.
This change goes back to January 2020, when Joe Stoffolano of Central Joint Fire and EMS had asked GIS if they could get river miles into their system so they could practice swift water rescue. At the time GIS was shorthanded and didn’t have the time to digitize river miles. Perry found United States Geological Service (USGS) maps with river miles handwritten on them. She was able to overlay them, in pre-planning maps, but not in the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD). So Perry asked Bill Mellman at Water Resources if he had knowledge of river miles or could digitize. He did some digging and found that Clermont Soil and Water had an intern from Miami University, who did the digitizing for GIS. Mellman scrubbed them and sent them to GIS. GIS Analyst Chris Bussell got the points added into the CAD.
“We’re on a statewide 911 system and we do quarterly updates for them,” Perry said. “Wouldn’t you know that the update had happened the day before, but we knew we didn’t want to wait. Chris Bussell reached out to a state contact and explained the situation. He made an exception and got them into the map right then.”
Perry recalled that Stoffolano emailed and thanked the team. She responded that river miles were great, but it would be better to have trail markers in the GIS and CAD system. Since then, Perry has reached out to Chris Clingman, Clermont County Park District, to get even more detailed location points into the system.
Kiskaden said the GIS Division works in unison with Public Safety Services’ CAD administrator Dominick Daulton and project manager Jessica Wiederhold to make sure that all 911 addressing is current and up to date with phone companies. They also work to make sure that mapping is updated for first responders’ mobile data.
“Location is key,” Kiskaden said. “If you don’t know where people are, you can’t help them. The longer it takes you to find them, it can be critical or life-threatening.”
Michael McNamara, Director of Clermont County Community and Economic Development, added: “The bottom line is that our behind-the-scenes work at Public Safety Services and in our GIS Division means a big difference when somebody is in distress. Departments working together, and our employees going the extra mile, make a big difference in the lives of Clermont County citizens.”