Antiquated communication systems used by dispatchers and responders often fail to effectively handle an increased flow of information during extreme emergencies, resulting in general communication breakdowns and inefficient response tactics.
Please refer to the process work section below for more on how we framed our problem.
Patch was designed to complement existing systems by running on already-used devices and freeing up necessary verbal channels for the communication of urgent information. It improves the management of emergencies for dispatchers, commanders, and responders, introducing clarity in situations where delays and confusion are the norm.
The Patch system comprises of three main interfaces that address the issues faced by different stakeholder groups, enhancing the efficiency and accuracy of their collaborative efforts.
Dispatchers and commanders are given the tools they need to direct responding units, while readily available information means responders can place more focus on the critical tasks at hand. Common features include a more digestable high-level overview of a situation and a shared messaging platform for non-critical information.
One of my main project responsibilities was the interface for dispatchers and commanders.
Currently, dispatchers have no location awareness of responders and resources, and rely heavily on the antiquated Computer-Aided Dispatch system into which they manually input information. Patch would render this system obsolete, with dispatchers maintaining their ability to record details digitally, but into an integrated visual system that would also enable them to easily perform functions such as inform other units about an emergency situation.
New cases are easily created in the system and placed on a map. With advanced technologies, the boundaries of a situation could be updated automatically as they are determined at the scene.
The location of responder units would be shown on a live map. A special mode would allow dispatchers to configure units as needed by quickly dropping pins on a map and dispatching them at the same time, circumventing the current problem of congested communication channels that hinder the distribution of units and tasks.
Commanders at the scene of an emergency would use Patch to stay informed about the ongoing situation. As in the case of dispatch, commanders would be kept locationally aware with a visual representation of units on a map.
With an accurate overview of the emergency, commanders are then able to allocate tasks accordingly.
In our research, we learned that in many police stations, multiple dispatchers are often handling calls and information at the same time. To streamline the communication of accurate and relevant information, we created a new role for one of those dispatchers—the role of the information organizer.
Using Patch, the information organizer would be responsible for sorting through any incoming information and putting together briefs and updates that can then be sent to the units involved.
With communication channels jammed during emergencies, responders often experience delays in receiving assignments and difficulties in disseminating important information.
In addition to facilitating the receipt of briefs for detailed and accurate information, Patch would provide an easy way for responders to confirm task receipt and completion. A messaging feature would also be available as a secondary form of communication.
To best inform our solution, we perused secondary documents and interviewed dispatchers, policemen, an EMT, and a volunteer fireman. This helped us understand the intricacies of the current system and the roles of stakeholders within.
Upon concluding our initial research, we created a video to communicate our findings and explain the problem we would be attempting to solve.
In order to guide our design process, we developed scenarios based on past events that have occurred in Pittsburgh.
We also took note of all stakeholder needs.
We translated needs into features and sorted them by importance. This helped us stay on track as we developed our solution.