FirstNet helping Madison County Coroner’s Office stay connected to team, other first responders

by Danielle Noone - Madison County Coroner

Reliable communication is very important when it comes to the coroner's office. We work a lot with dispatch and law enforcement. We need to get to the scenes quickly to preserve scene integrity. And we need to make sure we’re getting everything we need. So it’s really important for our response time because time is of the essence.

Before FirstNet, it was all phone calls. We would get a call from dispatch and find out what the situation was – the address, officer or medic on scene to call. And then I would get off the phone, call that medic or officer; get off the phone again and call whoever is on call for the coroner's office that day and dispatch them to that location.

Now, I get the call from dispatch and either shoot a text or call my deputy and let them know. But I don't have to text them the address, I don't have to text them the details. They can get right on their Sonim phone and know all the details and mark en route.

Keeping teams connected

FirstNet also has really helped improve our communication with each other.

I could be on a scene or one of my deputies can be on a scene. And we could have a question or need another investigator to take a look. We can use the resources on our phones to send a picture or a video. That’s in real life, like they're right there with us.

There’s an application available to us that lets us share video and photos. Sometimes depending on where the evidence is, it's helpful to have a second opinion.

I was recently on an investigation where there was rather large equipment and power tools that I'm just not knowledgeable on. I was able to use FirstNet to share video with one of my deputies who was off scene. He helped walk me through some things – such as gathering serial numbers and where to find the serial numbers. It was very helpful in completing our investigation.

So prior to FirstNet, I still could have called one of my deputies, but I would not have been able to share the information or the video with them.

Communicating in a pandemic

Our communications in the Madison County Coroner's Office have changed dramatically during this pandemic. We are more in tune with all of the county now. We are part of the COVID task force and we’ve been working hand-in-hand with the Madison County Health Department.

Dispatch has been asking certain questions that help triage a lot of these patients. For example, was the person running fever, coughing, have shortness of breath or possible exposure. That’s helped us determine if we needed to go to the scene for a death investigation. And do we need to bring COVID tests so we can obtain samples without having to go back a day later.

FirstNet has really helped improve our communication with people who are at the scene. We’re able to see if things are changing. We can see who is at the scene already. Sometimes we have to call in Child Protective Services and victims' advocates. So, using FirstNet – and the apps in the FirstNet catalog – we are able to see all of that because it's all documented within the call. It’s very helpful – and especially when we go back to do our reports and can see the exact timeline of everything.

Available 24/7

The coroner's office chose to put FirstNet on our personal cell phones, too, because we work 24/7. I always have to be available. But I'm not always carrying my work phone. Having FirstNet on my personal cell phone has made me available to dispatch at all times.

We decided to do that because, even though we are the last responders in almost every case, we are still considered first responders because we need to be called out in emergency situations.

Bottom line, FirstNet has made the coroner's office job easier. Communication is key – whether it's with people at dispatch, people at the scene, or people we need to get there to complete our death investigation in a timely manner.

Danielle Noone is the Madison County Coroner in Madison County, Indiana.