When you need to call 911, there are people waiting to help you on the other end. Backing up dispatchers, law enforcement, fire and EMS are the people behind the scenes that ensure the systems are working properly. In Flagler County, that person is Jarrod Shupe, this week’s The Big Five guest.

Tell readers a bit about yourself and what you do for Flagler County. 

I am Chief Information Officer and 911 Coordinator for the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC), as well as presently the Chief Information Officer for the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and the City of Flagler Beach.  I started with Flagler County in July of 2015.

I originally came from Syracuse, New York where I was the IT Director for the largest non-profit serving individuals with developmental disabilities, and before that I was a Vice President of a call center business. I am a New York State certified firefighter and was a New York State EMT as well.  My wife and children and I reside in Beverly Beach, and my father and step-mother reside in Flagler Beach.

 

You function in a CIO role for several agencies. How did this come about and has it allowed you to identify any gaps in technology or service? 

Originally, I started as the IT Director for the BoCC and the Sheriff’s Office.  Soon after the City of Flagler Beach was added to the responsibilities, and then shortly after I was given the responsibility of 911 Coordinator, Public Safety Communications (800MHz system), Public Safety Software (Computer-aided dispatch), and Geographic Information Systems (GIS).  A little over a year ago, I was tasked with leading the Creative Team, now known as the Multimedia Communications Team, that is responsible for assisting Flagler County interdepartmental staff, Municipalities, and County partners with their internal and external communications and public relations marketing strategy.

When a majority of this was consolidated under Innovation Technology, the entire ecosystem for that division was reviewed.  Those reviews sparked some great improvements for the employees, users of our services, and the public.  A few great examples are the first-ever permanent backup emergency communications, the overhaul, and upgrade of the primary emergency communications center, a $15,200,000 public safety communications system upgrade, $2,000,000 public safety software upgrade, multiple Florida Department of Law Enforcement audits that were completed, and best practices that have been shared with our municipal partners, as well as partners throughout Florida and the United States.

 

How do you serve the 911 system outside of just Flagler County? 

I serve on a few boards and advisory groups, as well as a member of numerous state and national associations for the different facets of our department.  Several years ago I was nominated by my 66 911 Coordinator peers to be 1 of 5 State of Florida 911 Board members.  The 4 other nominees and I are awaiting an official appointment from the Governor’s Office.

I am also one of two Region 3 (13 counties) representatives for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Regional Domestic Security Task Force Cybersecurity Focus Group.  This group is responsible for coming up with initiatives to increase the cybersecurity of all first responders in the state.  Each year we provide projects that meet the required 5% minimum of the overall award to the state.

A lot of work has been spent with the Florida Office of Safer Schools on the Alyssa’s Alert requirements that the school staff, sheriff’s office personnel, and the 911 staff all have to coordinate on.  I have spoken at their conference, as well as I am scheduled to speak at the Florida Sheriff’s Association conference next month on the topic. The state 911 Coordinator and a peer are assisting multiple state agencies in re-writing the statute/rules on Alyssa’s Alert to help make the system function, transparent, and ultimately make our schools, the school employees, and the students safer.

I am also helping write changes to 911 statutes that provide more funding to the Counties, and also move the statutes ahead with the technology.  One example of the newer technology is that Flagler County has the first known fully deployable 911 call handling system in a box in Florida that we devised with our vendor almost 2 years ago.  After watching the devastation on communities throughout the United States that rendered the emergency communication centers inhabitable, but the 911 phones were still ringing, we created a set of phones in a box with multiple inputs for internet connectivity – including satellite and cellular – that could be deployed anywhere.  With a simple transfer of the affected center’s phone lines to this system, they could be operational anywhere!  The unit has been replicated over 100 times since it was created.

 

Talk about your recent request for the 911 fee increase from $0.40 to $1.00 and why it’s needed. Where and for what would that money go? 

The 911 fee in the State of Florida was enacted in 1985 at an amount of $0.50 per month per device accessing 911 services. In January of 2015, the amount was reduced to $0.40, a 20% reduction. This amounts to a little over $500,000 for Flagler County.

The revenue from the 911 fee was to fund items such as 911 Telecommunicator salaries, 911 Telecommunicator training and certifications, 911 telephone system maintenance (including ADA equipment for the hearing impaired), 911 computer networks, mapping systems, call recording systems, backup power systems; time synchronization equipment, and other Statute allowable equipment or expense. Under the present statute, only the portion of the time an individual works as a Public Safety Telecommunicator is allowed to be paid from this fund.

This $500,000 only covers less than half of the $1,250,000 expense.  If you add in covering the entire salaries of the emergency communication center, that cost rises to around $3,500,000.  Even this cost does not include the majority of the building expenses, including water, electricity, remodeling, etc., nor the cost of the building replacement that should be planned every 15-20 years.

Increasing the 911 fee from $0.40 to $1.00 will take approximately $875,000 of burden from the General Fund.

 

Flagler County is testing out a new 911 service program. Can you share anything about that such as what it will do and why it could be a lifesaver in particular situations? 

Being a technology professional, I try and keep up with most trends that make sense for Flagler County.  We are always looking to do something better that will improve the lives of our residents and visitors.  We recently began using a product called What3words.  There is a standalone application that you can use that will give you 3 words that when entered into the system will give you your location with a resolution of about 3 meters (roughly 10’).  This works anywhere in the world and is sometimes better resolution than GPS.  There are some kinks in the system and it integrates with the RapidSOS software we have that most Android and Apple phones utilize to call 911.  Think of how this would work on a trail in Palm Coast, or out in the ocean.  An example of that my office located at the County Government Services building can be called in as “unsightly rebuffed neon” when the office next to me is “academy altitudes exulted”.  This is much easier than calling in help at 29.47371°N and 81.24503°W.  This technology is still being fully vetted, but providing the very best service, even when calling 911, is the priority for the BoCC.

1 COMMENT

  1. Information Technology a field I spent 35 plus years. Thank you for the great interview it something many people have no idea how important these jobs are. The article is written very well enjoyed the read.
    Godspeed

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