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911 enhancements speed emergency response on Marine Corps bases

By Mathuel Browne, MCSC Office of Public Affairs and Communication | Marine Corps Systems Command | May 11, 2016


The Marine Corps is the first military service to meet a 2010 Secretary of Defense mandate to provide more precise location of 911 callers and expedite emergency response times on bases.

After the 2009 Fort Hood shooting by an Army officer, the Pentagon began to take a closer look at security policies and procedures across the defense community. One of the lessons learned revealed a need to have 911 as the universal emergency number on every military base and for all installations to have enhanced 911 capabilities, called E911, to better support emergency responders in isolating a caller’s location.   

“Knowing the location of the caller is vital for responders during emergencies, especially when that caller is unable talk on the phone or doesn’t know their whereabouts,” said Casey Saggers, systems engineer for the Consolidated Emergency Response Systems program office at Marine Corps Systems Command. “Take for example a hunting emergency on base, where the caller is in a large wooded area. With E911, the dispatcher can now identify the GPS coordinates of the caller’s exact location.”

The CERS program office used a two-phased approach, first implementing E911, followed by Dispatch, Alerting, and Records Management—or DAR—software capabilities at identified Marine Corps locations. 

Before E911, emergency dispatchers only received caller-ID information without any location data for calls from government offices on an installation. Calls made to 911 from cell phones and family housing on base were sometimes transferred to county dispatch further away, due to the call zoning attached to the number.

E911 is federally approved software used across the nation by emergency responders. It allows dispatchers to locate a caller’s location and overlay the GPS coordinate onto a map using DAR to decrease call response time. Additionally, all calls are automatically recorded and saved for public record, personnel training and for investigations.

In order to standardize E911 across all Marine Corps installations and comply with national E911 standards, the CERS team had to ensure that street and building addresses were in compliance with the national Master Street Address Guide. The MSAG is a database that enables proper routing of E911 calls to the closest dispatcher by associating Emergency Service Numbers to telephone numbers and addresses.

“The Marine Corps has used building numbers for decades, but the MSAG could not route phone calls under that system,” said Bruce Hodge, information technology specialist for CERS. “So we had to assign new addresses across all Marine Corp bases. If you are a civilian aid worker coming to support a crisis on base, this data accurately identifies the location, increasing response time.”

Implementing the E911 system improved interoperability between county and installation responders for mutual aid dispatch by allowing both entities to transfer calls to the nearest dispatcher with a touch of a button, said Hodge.

The CERS program office at Marine Corps Systems Command provides critical IT solutions to emergency first responders. E911 was the first phase of the CERS product suite.  

The next phase, DAR, provides dispatch, alerting and record management, including geospatial mapping software and configured computers for emergency vehicles.  The first full CERS system to include both phases was delivered to Marine Corp Air Station Cherry Point in 2014.  Work is underway at both MCAS Beaufort and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.  All Marine Corps installations are expected to have the complete system by the spring of 2018.