Leslie Wilson, an administrator at North County Dispatch Joint Powers Authority in Southern California, was working on an emergency continuity of operations plan (COOP) when she realized her agency’s alternate 911 dispatch center — neighboring Heartland Fire — didn’t have a CAD system that provided the interoperability needed.

“We decided that it would be more cost-effective and would enhance our abilities to facilitate our COOP, including alternate dispatch responsibilities, to bring [Heartland Fire] on to our CAD system,” Wilson said.

North County uses a CAD system from TriTech. By adding Heartland Fire, the two jurisdictions can dispatch seamlessly, TriTech CEO Chris Maloney said. For example, call takers now can identify a unit in another mutual-aid jurisdiction that may be closer to an incident. When a 911 dispatcher from North County receives a call inside a service area near a county border, he or she then can dispatch a unit from another jurisdiction — for example, Heartland Fire — as if they “were one of their own and track them throughout the call,” Maloney said.

Wilson said the integration of the two CAD systems provides seamless support to member agencies and field units by having all dispatchers on the same system, all working off a similar GUI and adhering to the county’s 800 MHz radio system. The system also lets dispatchers access servers remotely.

“Heartland now can take over operations if North County needs to move to an alternate location, such as a fire station,” Wilson said. “If our server goes down, we can access the Heartland server and vice versa, so it’s virtually seamless.”

Wilson encouraged fire chiefs to develop COOP relationships with other agencies, saying that agencies can remain geographically diverse while providing seamless operations.

“We learned that it is possible, if you sit down and work with your neighbors, to have true interoperability and enhance your emergency COOP within the region,” she said.