dispatcher (Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock.com)

Mining emergency calls to improve responses

To help emergency call centers respond quickly and efficiently to a wide variety of incidents, the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials International joined forces with IBM to create new software to enhance the scripted guidance for 911 call takers.

APCO IntelliComm will use IBM’s Watson Speech-to-Text and Watson Analytics to understand the actual context of the emergency calls and compare the conversations to pre-scripted content to provide call center directors with feedback for modifying training or response materials.

Call takers -- whether emergency medical dispatch, police or fire -- have "pre-scripted instructions on how to best handle a particular call based on the nature and number of disciplines involved in the call,” Bill Josko, IBM’s global business services public safety practice leader for the U.S., told GCN.   IntelliComm "will better inform directors on how the actual conversations between callers and telecommunicators unfold, which may allow agencies to iteratively modify training materials to better meet callers’ needs,”  he said.

Watson’s Speech-to-Text capabilities will allow quality-assurance officers to review calls automatically, without needing to review the transcript of calls against the content found in guide cards. 

“And since Watson is able to understand and learn more context overtime through machine learning, it can also help to reduce call times, provide accurate triage information and help expedite time sensitive emergency services.”

IBM plans to enhance IntelliComm with the ability to help call takers identify the correct guide card by listening into conversations.

Watson’s analytical capabilities will also come into play with next-generation 911.  According to the NG911 Institute, only 15 to 20 percent of public safety answering points (PSAPs) today can handle NG911.  In the future, however, call takers and dispatchers will be dealing with a whole host of information related to emergency services, including geolocation information, texting, images, streaming video and social media. 

“All of this information is coming in at once, and now the call taker or dispatcher has to assimilate all of it and decide what is relevant and act as quickly as possible to listen to the nature of the call and get the proper resources rolling,” Josko said.  “We are working to distill all of this information down, to serve up the next best actions, hypotheses and advice to [PSAP operators] so they are able to look at the most contextually relevant information.

APCO will first test IntelliComm at five PSAPs; the specific locations have yet to be determined.

IntelliComm’s capabilities and analytical features “will enable public safety communications professionals to improve response times and the quality of care on the scene while enhancing post-action data that's key to continuous improvement back at the PSAP,” Derek Poarch, APCO’s executive director and CEO, said. “The ultimate result saves lives.”

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for GCN, covering cloud, cybersecurity and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Before joining GCN, Friedman was a reporter for Gambling Compliance, where she covered state issues related to casinos, lotteries and fantasy sports. She has also written for Communications Daily and Washington Internet Daily on state telecom and cloud computing. Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

Click here for previous articles by Friedman.

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