New Orleans is a busy and densely populated area that can swell to over a million people during big events like Mardi Gras and the Essence Music Festival. It has even hosted 10 Super Bowls over the years. Keeping the public safe is a 24×7 job with a lot of responsibility, and it begins long before a call comes in.
In May of 2016, the city of New Orleans not only consolidated technology, training, and operations for its 9-1-1 call center but also brought Police, Fire, and EMS dispatch under one roof. The advantage was two-fold. One, an emergency caller would immediately reach the right dispatch without multiple transfers. Two, in the event of a major incident, public safety agencies could mobilize a faster and more coordinated response.
We recently spoke with Tyrell Morris, executive director of New Orleans 9-1-1, to talk about how he, his staff of 150 telecommunicators, and an administrative team of 16, use Quickbase to seamlessly orchestrate Police, Fire, and EMT response.
How long have you been using Quickbase, and were you familiar with it before coming to New Orleans 9-1-1?
When I worked for the District of Columbia Government, every employee had access to Quickbase. In my agency, the Department of Parks and Recreation, we used it to manage calendars and track requests and submissions for things like communications, maintenance, IT, and equipment. I knew Quickbase from the perspective of a user there, but not as a developer.
Later on, I brought the platform to the Director of Operations, Shinar Haynes, and requested that we look into using Quickbase to help us realize some efficiencies. With her support, I signed up for a Quickbase trial and started clicking around; I quickly realized how great it was in getting the information in siloed spreadsheets to talk to one another. I think my understanding of Microsoft Excel and Access, and how data can be transferred back and forth, made it very easy for me to go from user to developer.
Why did you bring Quickbase with you to New Orleans 9-1-1?
I came to the organization in 2016 in the role of deputy director of Operations and have since been promoted to executive director. My job is wholly focused on the organization’s operational mission, which is to get the right people, in the right place, at the right time. I knew Quickbase would enable us to raise the bar even higher on what we could achieve and how fast we could do it.
Tell us about the Quickbase app you built.
One of the first things former Director Haynes realized was that the organization was very paper driven—and paper-driven processes tend to be cumbersome and inefficient. Replacing paper leave slips and scheduling books floating around the office was the first thing she wanted me to tackle. They were prone to errors and not always current which often led to last minute staffing issues and lots of juggling to fill the gaps. For most businesses that’s an inconvenience, but in a 9-1-1 call center it can mean life or death.
The Quickbase scheduling app I built now enables us to see employees’ leave history in one easily accessible place. And Quickbase notifications let me and team supervisors know how many holes we must fill before the next shift change. We now have an early warning system that gives us enough time to respond to a staffing issue before it can become a problem.
“Substitution of shift” requests have also been streamlined by automated workflows with online notifications, approval alerts, and calendar updates; and paper-based overtime scheduling is now a simple task. Our staff can quickly log in from anywhere, see what’s available, and sign up.
The other thing our Quickbase scheduling app does is helps us keep track of mandated certifications. Before, if we needed to know if someone’s CPR certification was current or if a telecommunicator had the right qualifications to take certain kinds of calls, there was no easy way to tell because we had paper files all over the place. Now we can see all certification records online, including those that are about to expire. Supervisors are notified 90 days prior to an expiration so we are always in compliance.
With just this one app we have been able to streamline scheduling and reduce paper-based office processes, such as quality improvement, by 90%
As one of Quickbase’s first certified builders, can you talk about how that experience led to the creation of a new tool that is helping New Orleans 9-1-1 save more lives?
I learned about Open API calls in an online Quickbase University course while studying for my certification exam. Putting them to use has helped strengthened our ability to protect and serve the public because it enables us to instantly access information in other databases.
For instance, a call came in from the friend of a suicidal teen who was threatening to jump into the Mississippi river. Normally we would have to call all the carriers to find out if the teen’s number was theirs, so they could ping it and give us location coordinates for the phone. Now by linking an open API call with a third-party carrier lookup service, we just enter the number, click a button, and we instantly know which carrier to call. Every minute counts, and this feature has shaved about 10 minutes off our response time. It helped us save the life of that teen.
We also have a built-in integration with Everbridge, which acts as our city’s incident notification system. What that integration with Quickbase does is it eliminates the need to call, text, or email many different people in the event of a major incident. Notifications, with all the pertinent details included, happen instantly so we can mobilize a fast response—whether it’s a kidnapping, a fire, or a homicide. Non-incident notifications are also automatically generated and sent to local police departments to, for example, coordinate traffic for things like street or intersection closures.
Over the past 12 months you’ve added dozens of new features to your app. Can you give us a few highlights?
A very common challenge we were having is people calling in about stolen vehicles, which instead had been towed from an unauthorized area or repossessed. To address the situation, we now integrate our Quickbase platform with our Department of Public Works system and Beacon Software, which provides the technology for about 80% of the nation’s towing companies. Now when someone calls in about a stolen car, we can instantly determine if a police dispatch is needed or not, which helps us keep more officers on the street responding to high priority calls.
We also engaged Quickbase Solutions Provider, Juiced Technologies, to build an automated report generator for us. It has helped us turn a federally mandated report of major offenses, that used to take three hours to compile, into an instant report. Now, with just a few mouse clicks, it’s ready to publish to the media by 8:00 AM every morning.
Another thing that Quickbase has enabled us to do is help on a broader scale, whether that’s stabilizing a 9-1-1 center during a California wildfire or a Louisiana flood. The program used to be paper based so by the time we learned about a request it was often months old. Now I can instantly upload them, and we can send available people with the interest and right qualifications to help out anywhere in the country.
“When it comes to public safety, Quickbase has been instrumental in helping New Orleans 9-1-1 support fast, informed, and coordinated response across Police, Fire, and EMS services. It has also enabled our Agency to operate much more efficiently, and even helped us extend our services and expertise to assist others beyond our city walls.”
Want to learn more? Read the full customer story here.