Technological Wonders Buffalo Grove Says Its Investment in Technology Has Paid Off
Zalusky, Steve, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Byline: Steve Zalusky Daily Herald Staff Writer
Buffalo Grove is finding that technology can improve your life. And sometimes it can even save it.
Robert Giddens, the village's director of management information systems, mentioned one example. During one of its recent phone outages, the village placed information on its cable channel about where residents could go in case of an emergency.
One resident, who had seen the notice a day before, suffered a heart attack. Armed with the information he saw the previous day, however, the man was able to find help at one of the listed emergency response stations.
The information had been written on the village's main information program, Lotus Notes, and posted to the cable channel.
"That person was saved because of the technologies we put in place," Giddens said.
In another instance, a youth needed a blood transfusion but could not find a match through LifeSource.
The family called the village's public information officer, Phil Versten, who put the request on the village's electronic newsletter, which is sent to about 900 subscribers. As a result, a match was found.
Since about 1995, the village has committed itself to technology. It began with an internal network linking the village's computers, expanded to a cable network linking the village, the Buffalo Grove Park District and Aptakisic-Tripp Elementary School District 102 and has evolved into a wireless network that has enabled crucial village departments to take their act on the road.
An example of the effectiveness of the wireless technology is the Buffalo Police Department, which uses "mobile data terminals" in their cars.
Police Commander Jamie Dunn said the terminals have enabled officers to use a paperless reporting system. He said officers have a template of a police report, which allows them to type in the report while out in the field and then, through wireless communication, transmit it back to the police station.
"It keeps the officer out in the street, as opposed to coming into the station," he said. "(This) gives him more time on the road."
Technology has also helped the department in the office, Dunn said.
"Information doesn't fall through the cracks anymore."
For example, the department has databases that archive criminal activity in particular areas. This helps the department's community policing effort.
Dunn added that officers from one shift can e-mail information to officers on another shift.
Buffalo Grove Village Manager William Balling said the village has had computer systems since the mid-'80s, but until the mid-'90s used them on a "Balkanized basis."
About seven years ago, the village completed a study at the instigation of the late trustee Bill Reid, Balling said.
As a result of the study, the village committed more than $1 million for hardware, software and staffing.
Giddens was hired as a result of the study.
"They decided they had a lot of islands of automation in different areas that weren't being coordinated," Giddens said. "We were (still) using computers with eight-inch floppy disks."
The network, such as it was, that Giddens found consisted of one central computer connecting four terminals. There were also a handful of stand-alone computers serving individual needs.
"There was no way of moving information around," he said.
Purchase orders were taking as long as three weeks to process, because it involved much retyping.
"The first thing we did was evaluate our existing technology and throw most of it away, because of the incompatibility and age of the systems," Giddens said. "We then rolled out 75 computers village wide."
The department now has 250 computers in seven departments. These are connected to servers and are part of a centralized data processing system. …