Parkland shooting leads to new 911 plan to boost efficiency between agencies

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. —After the Parkland school massacre in 2018, a new computer system will help Coral Springs police communicate more efficiently with the Broward Sheriff’s Office for emergencies.

The $686,550 computer-aided dispatch program, which was recently approved by Coral Springs, allows dispatchers from both agencies to instantly share information with each other as soon as they get a 911 call —saving crucial seconds when they matter most.

When a call for help comes, “we would type (the 911 information) in, they can send a unit right away,” Coral Springs Police Chief Clyde Parry said of working with the Sheriff’s Office. “This allows us to put it into the computer, it shows up on their computer, which saves seconds, time and lives.”

The new tech comes as a response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High mass shooting in which 17 people were killed. After the shooting happened, Coral Springs was the lead police agency for more than a half hour as both agencies scrambled for information.

Broward sheriff’s deputies, whose jurisdiction includes Parkland, had trouble communicating because the Broward County radio system buckled under the crush of police officers connecting to its channels. Law enforcement used runners so they could speak with each other.

The radio failures were only one of the communication problems that day. Coral Springs handles fire services for Parkland, but not law enforcement. While the city was receiving the majority of the 911 calls for help, the sheriff’s office also was delayed in receiving the information because of the transfers.

Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, the chairman for the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, talked of such problems in 2018. “I don’t think it is good for the citizens of the state of Florida to call 911 … and they say, ‘Hold on, I’m going to transfer you and you can tell your story again,’” he said.

Now, Parry said the new technology will eliminate that in more common day-to-day occurrences.

If an emergency happens in a city patrolled by the Sheriff’s Office, such as Tamarac, and a 911 caller gets neighboring Coral Springs dispatch instead of the Sheriff’s Office because of the cell tower site, dispatchers can “type it in to this technology and it makes our computers talk to Broward County’s computers,” Parry said.

“It eliminates call transfers. Once it’s put into the system, the dispatchers for Broward County can dispatch their people —we don’t have to go through transferring the call and the re-interrogation,” he said.

Although Coral Springs has approved the purchase, the programming between the two agencies still needs to be written. It will be up and running “in the near future but I don’t know when it will go live,” Parry said.

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