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Tazewell County, VA: Standardizing Information Gathering Yields Positive Results and Confident Call Takers

Agency Profile

Tazewell County 911 has been handling emergency calls in Tazewell County, Virginia, since April 23, 1997. They process over 31,000 emergency calls a year.


Tazewell County 911 experienced a rapid increase in call volume as wireless service spread across Virginia. The convenience of cell phones to reach 911 added to the demands on the center.  The agency was already strained from its population of over 45,000. Even one of the smaller towns made up of just 4,000 residents generated 1,000 EMD calls thanks to two major nursing homes in the area.

And it wasn’t just EMD calls overwhelming Tazewell County. While they already had a script for EMD calls, they had no uniform way of handling the Law Enforcement calls that came in daily, and improvisation was no longer cutting it. Without protocols, they were missing questions and lacking consistency.

Essentially, Tazewell County needed a way to handle their growing call volume effectively and quickly process all calls (Fire, Police, and EMS) in a standardized form. They were ready for a single solution to deliver integrated protocols. They were ready for Total Response.

When Tazewell County 911 first sought a call handling system, they evaluated many providers, including those already prevalent throughout Virginia. Instead of basing their decision simply on the majority, they found the right fit for them. They decided to employ  Total Response, citing protocol flexibility and delivery as one of the main draws.

Derrick Ruble, Director of Tazewell County 911 recalls:

We looked at other providers, but they were so restrictive, and it was hard to make changes to the protocols. We were able to update PowerPhone's motor vehicle protocol almost instantly to make it more specific to local details. We're not trying to change the procedure for CPR, just enhance the information being collected based on our needs. With the other companies, changes had to be submitted and approved, and it was beyond our control.

Tazewell County found they needed a more efficient way to handle their increased call volume, and PowerPhone introduced them to Total Response. As one of the first PSAPs in Virginia to become EMD-certified, Tazewell County is no stranger to trendsetting. Thus, they also became one of the first sites to implement Total Response in Virginia, and they have never looked back.


Total Response has simplified the call handling process for Tazewell County, making their high call volume easier to handle. The dispatchers no longer have to write everything down by hand and then transfer that information into the CAD system. Instead, Total Response interfaces seamlessly with their original CAD system, Southern Software. Total Response streamlines the flow of information between itself and CAD in real-time, improving the efficiency of call handling and the accuracy of dispatch decisions. This seamless integration gives Tazewell County responders unrivaled insight into scene conditions before they even arrive and helps dispatchers with call and incident response management.

As soon as the dispatcher accepts the dispatch recommendation, BAM, all the information is dropped right into CAD with a time stamp.

Because Tazewell’s Total Response software provides scripts for police, fire and emergency medical dispatch calls, including the all-important pre-arrival instructions, dispatchers are no longer just experts in EMD and ad-libbing for all other calls.

Standardization, Standardization, Standardization. We've got it. For every single call now, not just EMD. And I can tell you, in the snow, we can get 20 to 30 calls about car accidents in a 20 to 30 minute period, but now, we can handle it," Ruble said.

And it’s the program’s built-in Quality Assurance component that’s really helping Tazewell reach their standardization goals. For Tazewell County, it’s an excellent way to go back, pull calls at random, and see how dispatchers are doing. They plan to add this process of evaluating calls at random to every dispatcher’s yearly evaluation. And for new dispatchers, Tazewell aims to pull more calls each week to give positive feedback.

It's a great way to give positive feedback, not disciplinary action. Just like the protocols, the QA process is uniform, with each call ranked the same way, but also customizable. You decide where you want to put the most value.

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Standardizing information gathering yields positive results and confident call takers