emergency dispatcher (911.gov)

INDUSTRY INSIGHT

Why data is driving the future of 911

In a previous era, reaching 911 required a phone call into the public safety answering point (PSAP) and a radio call to dispatch emergency services.

Developments in 911 technology over the past 25 years brought Enhanced 911 and Wireless 911 to more than 90% of American PSAPs, but the voice-centric 911 call remained the backbone of emergency service. Now, however, with local governments taking advantage of innovative, cloud-based public-safety software, dispatchers -- today better described as telecommunicators -- and first responders can access critical situational details in the moments that matter most.

These new technology-driven 911 centers use location data from cellphones, videos, text and software integrations with vehicles to create a quicker, more efficient way to respond to emergencies. In addition, advanced analytics platforms can be integrated within cloud-based systems.

Replacing legacy systems and adopting a data-driven approach to emergency response with modern technology opens new possibilities for the next age of 911 -- improvements that can shorten response times, pinpoint trouble spots in real-time, simplify critical assessments and save lives.

Integrated data improves emergency response

Relying on location and phone number identification tied to the physical address of a landline is not sufficient to map increasingly mobile 911 callers and dispatch emergency services. Even standard-issue cellphone mapping using cell towers to estimate location is inexact. By leveraging real-time location data from Apple, Google and other providers, an integrated mapping solution can pinpoint a 911 caller before the call even connects to the PSAP. More advanced solutions with the right industry partners may even tap into a vehicle or home security system to ensure the most accurate location.

With diverse sources of data input, telecommunicators and first responders are better equipped with information about a car crash, home invasion or other emergency. An integrated platform also opens the possibility of different outputs from the 911 center. This includes two-way SMS, which allows telecommunicators to exchange texts directly with the caller, an especially useful tool in domestic violence cases and in other situations where the caller may be unable to speak.

Cloud-based 9-1-1 platforms provide valuable data analysis

As local agencies make the move to Next Generation 911, many realize they can harness more value from the data their system produces. But they also know this data is only valuable if it’s actionable.

Cloud-based analytics solutions are purpose-built for specific industries, a critical factor in the case of emergency services. Modern 911 platforms remove the need for a server closet that could break down, fail to store valuable data or delay delivering valuable insights. Additionally, cloud-based analytics solutions update in real-time. PSAP call and performance data is automatically uploaded and stored in the cloud, creating efficient, on-demand access.

A common scenario is when an agency manager must share a biweekly call log with a government public safety official. With legacy systems, this requires a manual data pull that can sometimes take a couple of days to complete. Before it even hits the desk, the information is outdated and essentially useless.

With a cloud-based system that updates in real-time, however, this report pull can be automated. Biweekly, the report will pull from the system automatically and send it to the public official. Not only is the data in real-time and much more valuable, but it also keeps agency managers from spending time on a tedious, manual task. Instead, these individuals can now spend more time evaluating the data and making informed decisions.

The data collected must foster informed decisions that improve emergency response services. Unfortunately, standard 911 management information systems today fall short. MIS reports provide a limited, one-dimensional view of data and only deliver surface-level information about past events.

Imagine a PSAP sets a monthly goal to answer calls within 10 seconds or less, 90% of the time. A 911 administrator could pull a basic report on this activity through the MIS, but that only tells what happened rather than why it happened. What if the system could report that on Tuesdays between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., the goal was missed substantially, only checking the box 60% of the time? A cloud-based analytics system that automatically logs and analyzes all call data can point to specific issues around staffing using any number of guidelines.

Modern, cloud-based analytics solutions provide a multidimensional snapshot of a system and the data it produces, giving public safety organizations the ability to point out a problem, understand what is contributing and develop a solution.

Every local government official knows that the goal of effective emergency response is to quickly and accurately respond to 911 calls and dispatch the correct services. Rather than making it harder on first responders by equipping them with a legacy, outdated system, public safety agencies should consider embracing digital transformation and adopting innovative cloud-based systems designed with real-time data at the core. Accessing data in real-time can improve situational awareness, response times and overall operational performance. It helps 911 administrators, supervisors, telecommunicators and first responders and provides a crucial benefit for the caller on the other end of the phone.

About the Author

Steve Raucher is CEO at RapidDeploy.

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