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Summer 2002
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Safety and Emergency Response Number

City of Medellín, Colombia, Inaugurates 1-2-3

  click to see enlargement
PowerMap's general interface, which permits all of the emergency calls and reported incidents to be located on a digital map of the City.

Home to almost two million people, Medellín is the capital of the State of Antioquía and is the second largest city in Colombia. This city is one of the country's most important tourist destinations and is known as "the flower capital" and "the city of eternal spring," in addition to being a must-see center for Business, conferences, and conventions.

Unfortunately, this beautiful city with a pleasant spring climate has been affected by a high crime rate and safety concerns.

Municipal Management, led by the Mayor of Medellín, has guided the search for technologies to improve the handling and response to emergency situations. The goal was to develop a high-capacity emergency response system to safeguard the life and well-being of Medellín's citizens.

From this goal was born the 1-2-3 safety and emergency number, the purpose of which was to unite City and State officials under one technical solution that would facilitate effective and efficient response to citizens' calls, channeling them to the attention of the proper authority. This system operates under the leadership of Metroseguridad, the Metropolitan Security Company, or MetroSecurity.

After an exhaustive process of defining requirements and the opening of a public tender, a team was selected to oversee implementation of the project. The team comprises Positron Public Safety Systems, a Canadian company, which is an international leader in 911 emergency systems, and Prosis, Esri's distributor in Colombia.

Participating Organizations

The solution that was developed for the City of Medellín, called "Safety and Emergency Response Number--1-2-3," unites the following safety organizations: Civil Defense, Cuerpo Técnico de Investigaciones (Technical Investigations Bureau), Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (Administrative Security Department), Fire Department, Metrohealth, Metropolitan Police, Municipal Traffic, the Red Cross, and the Sistema Metropolitano de Prevención y atención de desastres (Metropolitan Emergency Prevention and Response System).

The Emergency System Components

  diagram of the GIS solution architecture
Diagram of the architecture of the GIS solution

"Safety and Emergency Response Number--1-2-3" is powered by Power123, a custom Windows NT application that carries out receiving and classification tasks for the emergency calls. Another application, Power CAD, is the customized graphic interface that simplifies the handling of incidents and resources by providing a visual image of the details and status.

One of the main components of the emergency system is PowerMap, a GIS-based application built on Esri's MapObjects that displays caller location and reported incidents on a digital map of the City. This information is critical and indispensable in making fast and reliable decisions.

Through PowerMap, operators can visualize geographically the reported emergencies in real time as well as the status of the attention they are receiving. On a thematic map, it is possible to identify incident characteristics such as type, priority, agency that responded, and location (by coordinates or by address) in relation to roads, hydrographic information, municipal boundaries, etc. All this information is stored in a database.

Afterward, using ArcGIS, this information is used by City authorities to perform analyses on the statistics produced by the system. Specific prevention and control plans can then be designed.

Emergency Management Cycle

"Safety and Emergency Response Number--1-2-3" works as follows:

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The interface where all the information corresponding to the calls and incidents is deployed on a digital map.
  • Receipt of incoming calls--When a citizen contacts 1-2-3, thecall is automatically received by one of 19 operators. By means of the computerized telephone system and the localization panel, the system automatically identifies the telephone number and the address from which the call originates, displaying this information over a digital map of the City.
  • Focusing on the Incident--The system contains data on all emergency eventualities and provides the operator with some basic questions to ask to obtain information regarding the emergency, allowing for the best management of resources and personnel for a prompt response.
  • Contact with Emergency Response Agencies--Once the operator has all the information, the system automatically identifies and sends information to the dispatchers of the agency that needs to be involved, taking into account the type of emergency and where it is located. Twenty dispatchers receive the emergency information and dispatch the appropriate resources for emergency management. Communication between the dispatchers and the resources (emergency units such as patrol cars, ambulances, etc.) is carried out via radio, which allows management of the emergency until it is concluded and then facilitates follow-up.
  • Incident Closure--Once the emergency is resolved, the operator is in charge of closing it out and storing it in a database where a registry of all reported incidents to the 1-2-3 system is kept.

Implementation of "Safety and Emergency Response Number--1-2-3" will make Medellín the first city in Colombia to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the agencies in charge of guaranteeing and preserving the security of the people. The leading agency for the project, MetroSecurity, has been promoting a slogan that invites people to participate in spreading the word. The slogan is: "With 1-2-3, the Safety and Emergency Response Number, Medellín will be a kinder and safer city. Learn the slogan and pass it along!"

For more information, contact Adriana M. Sanchez, GIS specialist, Prosis S.A. (e-mail:, tel.: 57-1-635-7350).

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