Over the last 20 months, COVID-19 has brought a variety of issues in public health and safety to the fore. Amongst these is an overwhelming of our emergency communications systems and emergency personnel. The pandemic forced an unprecedented surge in 911 calls, “causing global disruption in EMS dispatch centers’ services and significant delays in emergency response worldwide.”
Just two weeks ago, a county in Virginia, “encouraged the community to use judgement before calling 911,” due to, “the Dispatch Center [receiving] approximately 100 more calls per month than the number of calls coming in two years ago.” In August, a Florida police chief, “[asked] people to reserve use of the 911 system for ‘the most serious emergencies.’” Charlotte, North Carolina has officially altered its approach to handling calls, with presumed lower-risk callers receiving a “no lights and sirens” response from medical services as a result of a medics shortage.
It is clear that dispatchers and emergency personnel need help. Our systems are out of date and easily overrun by modern issues that they are not yet built to handle. Small issues can quickly cascade to create disastrous downstream effects that greatly harm our communities. Cities, like Charlotte, have been forced to create patchwork, temporary solutions to help stave off larger, systemic issues.
Many cities, however, are experimenting with innovations that seek to alter emergency communications paradigms. In Louisville, Kentucky, the LMPD 4th Division is piloting a program in partnership with the University of Louisville to deflect some 911 calls to a non-police response:
“The pilot, recommended in a report from the University of Louisville’s Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky (CIK)…involves establishing:
A Behavioral Health Hub, with health crisis interventionists integrated in the MetroSafe 911 call center. Call takers would direct certain Critical Incident calls to an interventionist, who would help further triage the crisis to determine whether it could be de-escalated over the phone, if the person in crisis would benefit from a mobile response, or if the scenario called for an LMPD response due to safety concerns.
A mobile response unit consisting of trained crisis interventionists to “rapidly respond, effectively screen and assist persons in crisis in accessing the appropriate level of care.
A 24-hour “community respite center,” a fully staffed safe place where individuals can stay for up to 24 hours when connected by the mobile response team.”
This type of solution takes a holistic approach to emergencies and emergency communications. Each stakeholder — the caller, the PSAP, and the first responder — is addressed and has their role altered.
Prepared Live is built the same way. We, as a company, view public safety as a something that is achieved collectively — and we execute on this premise by building a platform that fundamentally alters the way emergencies are communicated. The software enables 911 dispatch centers to receive texts, photos, videos, GPS location, and even livestream with callers.
For PSAPs, this means they evolve from serving as the ears of the public to becoming the eyes and ears. For first responders, this means that they enter emergencies more prepared than ever before. Both the first responder and the community member is better served, and safer, as a result. For the caller, they can now more easily explain the emergency at hand, no matter the circumstance.
Prepared Live is changing the game for 911 at a time when it desperately needs it. Here are three innovative examples:
Missing persons cases are amongst the most time-sensitive situations for law enforcement. The first 72 hours are critical for gathering evidence, interviewing potential witnesses, and establishing the scope of an investigation. Initially, however, valuable time passes as those that alert the authorities must file a detailed report that includes last known whereabouts, descriptions, and pictures.
Prepared Live can save crucial time for law enforcement. The moment someone dials 911 to report a missing person, a dispatcher can activate the platform and immediately receive relevant photos and video footage. The caller can immediately provide photos and descriptions of key identifying features such as tattoos and birthmarks. In addition to verbally describing the missing person, the caller can use text to add essential details.
Authorities have more information and are better able to determine the severity and scope of the case — quicker than ever before. In the time they may have been waiting to gather evidence and reports, they’re able to begin forming the foundation of the investigation.
There is an alarming trend of an increase in accidental dials of 911 from smart phones and watches. In a standard dispatch center, these non-emergency calls can quickly become a time sink for emergency personnel. Dispatchers are forced to remain on the call and attempt to verify that the call was truly accidental. If they are unable to do so, or the call has dropped, they’re required to send a first responder, typically a Deputy, to check on the situation.
Centers that are using Prepared Live have effectively leveraged the platform to help reduce this occurrence. Captain David Boruchowitz of Nye County, Nevada, explains:
“We’ve implemented Prepared Live to be utilized by the dispatchers to talk to people in real-time and to be able to see their surroundings and verify that there is no actual emergency and they’re able to close that call out without having to send a deputy and without that call holding. This has significantly reduced the load on our deputies, has significantly allowed the public to get a much quicker response, and has allowed our dispatchers to keep those calls from brewing on their screen.”
Dispatchers are then free to handle more urgent calls and Deputies are not wasting time visiting non-emergencies. Each of these ripple effects help to increase the safety of the public as they decrease wait times and reduce the chance of capacity being overwhelmed.
Nye County is also using Prepared Live to help clear their online reporting backlogs. Boruchowitz says:
“We have an online reporting system that is under utilized and often people wait hours for a deputy for a not-in-progress call that could be handled via the very quick online reporting forum. With Prepared Live, we’re able to communicate with them while they’re on the phone with the dispatcher, send them the link through Prepared Live [to our online reporting portal], and the individuals are able to complete the report without having to wait for a deputy…freeing up time for our staff and also freeing up time for the public to not wait around for in-progress calls.”
The platform has become valuable tool to improve efficiency in Dispatch Centers, producing a set of knock-on effects that ensure the public reap the benefits.
The events that occur as a caller is dialing 911 are very consequential. Maybe an accident has just occurred, a fire is beginning, or the caller is facing danger. In each of these situations, the person that has dialed 911 is under significant stress and may find it difficult to communicate.
With Prepared Live activated, the caller is given the ability to simply show the dispatcher the scene instead of having to verbally provide key details. The dispatcher is able to assess the severity of the situation and effectively instruct the caller in the proper course of action.
Further, any pictures or pre-recorded videos from the scene can easily be passed on to the dispatcher through secure chat. Add in the exact GPS location and emergency personnel have an incredibly clear picture of an emergency within minutes of a call’s arrival.
Once an incident is resolved, law enforcement are able to access livestream footage, videos, and photos from Prepared Live’s secure archive. In the event of a crime, these can be crucial evidence in helping to identify a perpetrator, examining the scene as it was when the crime occurred, or even seeing the crime as it happened. Centers using Prepared Live have also told us that the existence of a livestream can even help callers deter potential crimes before they occur.
Rather than relying on hastily taken notes or foggy memories, our software enables law enforcement to leverage real data points and files that provide the real picture of what occurred on a call.
Those are just a few of the innovative uses that our centers have found for Prepared Live. Other standouts include:
As some states move into fall and winter hunting seasons, we expect centers to be able to leverage Prepared Live to help guide hunters that get lost in the woods by using the provided livestream visual and GPS location.
Emergency personnel around the country are working tirelessly to mitigate work shortages, issues stemming from COVID-19, and a plethora of other issues that are currently plaguing the system.
At Prepared, we believe that our platform can help alleviate some of the burden that is currently weighing down the emergency communications process. We’re learning more every day about how Prepared Live is being used and can be used moving forward. Our centers provide valuable feedback that we study to ensure the platform is built to provide value in any situation.
We continue to work diligently to find new uses, add new features, and provide the best software that we possibly can.