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New Report Form Uses Technology to Crowdsource Severe Weather and Damage Observations for Northwest Suburbs

Wed June 12 2013 8:26 am
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Today The Cardinal — introduces a form for submitting severe weather observations and damage observations throughout the northwest suburbs of Chicago. The form will serve as a tool to crowdsource citizen weather observations and damage observations to increase public safety awareness in the aftermath of severe weather.

The Cardinal — will aggregate the crowdsourced information and publish the reports. The information will be useful for family, friends and neighbors to share information to understand the scope of the storm, and to help people gather resources for family, friends and neighbors in need.

Help Activate Insurance Companies
Major insurance companies often read articles about storm damage from The Cardinal immediately after a major storm hits. The information is helpful for activating adjusters and insurance teams in the area. A delay in awareness, means a delay in funding and repairs. All people who have experienced damage or who have witnessed damage are encouraged to report incidents using the form in addition to calling 911 and notifying their insurance companies.

The Cardinal — formerly provided a useful service by reporting storm damage reports and weather-related incidents in the aftermath of storms. The source of the reporting was one of the most useful tools in the news room — the police scanner. The Cardinal — can no longer monitor public safety communications Arlington Heights and area communities.

The new storm report form and crowdsourcing from The Cardinal could be especially helpful in a disaster because all public safety communications by police, fire/rescue agencies in the communities served by the Northwest Central Dispatch System 911 center are no longer monitored by the media and neighborhood watch groups.

Radio Silence — We’re in the Dark Now
One week ago on June 5, 2013, the Northwest Central Dispatch System 911 center switched to a new radio system that has shut out the media and neighborhood watch groups from monitoring public safety communication in most communities of the northwest suburbs.

Police agencies that are now engaging in secret communications with encryption include Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, Mount Prospect, Palatine, Prospect Heights, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg and Streamwood.

Fire agencies that cannot be monitored include Arlington Heights, Buffalo Grove, Elk Grove Village, Hoffman Estates, Inverness, Palatine, Palatine Rural, Rolling Meadows, Schaumburg and Streamwood. Prospect Heights Fire Protection District, Long Grove FPD and Wheeling Fire Departement still use open radio communications by another 911 center (RED CENTER) that specializes in FIRE/RESCUE only communications.

The police agencies have actively encrypted their channels with hopes that criminals can no longer escape police capture by monitoring police dispatches. Not all police agencies statewide have encrypted their police communications, and they have found other ways of keeping criminals from hearing the communications that would allow them to escape capture.

The fire agencies are not encrypted, but it is currently not possible to listen to fire agencies because Northwest Central Dispatch System and the fire agencies served are using a newer radio technology by Motorola that is not supported by any public safety scanner in current production.

The only scanner that could possibly have worked was discontinued when the manufacturer of the scanner had their factory mysteriously shut down by the government of China in October 2012. Some of the discontinued scanners are out there, but they are in limited supply, and they are not supported (including the support of necessary technology upgrades) by any manufacturer.

The lack of ability of citizens and media to monitor public safety communications in a disaster could seriously hamper emergency operations by limiting reporting and awareness of affected areas of a disaster. The lack of real time communications and awareness could also cause further loss of life and property. The lack of real time communications could also delay the response of outside restoration contractors, public adjusters, and insurance companies.

Many of the police and fire agencies in the northwest suburbs have FAILED to provide an alternative consideration for keeping people aware of public safety incidents. Major cities and major metropolitan areas, such Arlington (Virginia), Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York, Portland (Oregon) have taken extra considerate measures for their citizens by providing information on social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, or on dedicated web pages that show Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD). Many police and fire personnel and those on the executive committee of Northwest Central Dispatch System 911 Center have treated public safety incident information as if it is some type trade secret. NONE of the communities in the northwest suburbs have a live, real-time notification service of public safety FIRE/EMS incidents on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.

Portland, Oregon even makes the extra effort to inform citizens on the source of a smoke column …

As a responsible citizen or business leader in our communities, you are urged to complain to your Police Chiefs, Fire Chiefs, Mayors and Village Managers and ask them why they don’t have the public safety consideration for notification of public safety incidents as compared to the cities mentioned in this article.

9-1-1 Can Get Overloaded
When heavy rains hit the northwest suburbs from Friday July 22, 2011 to Saturday July 23, 2011 phone lines were jammed at Northwest Central Dispatch System due to high call volume. Many of the calls were diverted to the Cook County Sheriff’s police 911 center. Many callers called 911 and got no answer from the 911 center. With lack of media reporting on the storm’s aftermath and reports of the response of police and firefighters, it is likely that the 911 center will receive an even higher call volume because anxious callers will want to know what is happening. While 911 is not supposed to be used to get the news, the improper usage by citizens DOES happen and WILL happen with higher frequency in a major disaster — causing even greater likelihood that calls for help will be delayed.

Use of Cardinal Storm/Damage Report Form Encouraged
Use of the form is preferred, but if practical use by readers or citizens is not possible, weather observations and storm damage can also be reported by calling or TEXTING The Cardinal — NEWS TIPS EMERGENCY LINE …

847-398-0123 (VIP-EXT-0123)


See also …
Arlington Virginia Police Live Computer Aided Dispatch …

Boston Fire Department —

Chicago Fire Department Twitter — …

Los Angeles Fire Department Twitter — …

New York FDNY —

Portland Fire Department Twitter —


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