Uniting first responder efforts for multiple agencies within the area, the Williamson County funded Unify system by Central Square aims to create a safer community.

The overview

The county's information and technology department presented an update on implementation of the software at a Sept. 26 Williamson County Commissioners Court meeting.

The Unify project is a system that links different public safety agencies, via 911 dispatch calls, allowing them to talk to each other through a data-sharing network. This enables agencies to dispatch the most suitable, nearest or ideal team to any emergency without being restricted by jurisdictional boundaries.

It allows responders to arrive quicker and have the latest info they need to address the emergency.

“The reason we're doing this is because citizens don't care what the logo on the truck is. When they call for help, they want someone to get there fast. So [Unify is] reducing response times [and] getting the right folks there, regardless of the logo,” said Richard Semple, chief information officer for Williamson County.

A closer look

Serving approximately 700,000 Central Texans, the setup of the Unify system revolves around Williamson County's computer-aided dispatch system acting as the central hub, while all other dispatch systems in the region serve as interconnected branches that contribute data to the hub.

In 2015, Wilco received a federal grant for $386,000 used to purchase the Unify software. So far, the data-sharing system includes fire departments in Georgetown, Round Rock, Leader, Cedar Park and Austin. The cities of Hutto, Pflugerville and Manor have also agreed to participate.

Additionally, there are plans to include other responder agencies, such as emergency medical services and police departments.

“The next public safety agencies to go live will be EMS to include Georgetown Fire, North Lake Travis Fire Department, Pflugerville Fire Department and Austin/Travis County EMS in addition to Williamson County EMS,” said Janessa Stephens, Williamson County’s public safety technology director. “Future plans include incorporating other neighboring counties and agencies who may wish to participate.”

What else?

​​The county pays annually for maintenance of the Unify system with each individual agency paying for their connection to the hub.

The Unify tool can also be used to connect with partners outside of the public safety sector, including hospitals, schools and towing agencies.

Semple highlighted the unique benefit for Williamson County with implementing this technology to improve public safety agency dispatch, saying the software developer had to provide accommodations specific to the county's needs.

“The Unify system hosted by Williamson County is the only one in the country to not only fully integrate with multiple CAD systems, but also to utilize the bidirectional call transfer and closest-unit dispatching capabilities,” Semple said.