How 911 Agencies Prepare for the Fourth of July

July 2, 2019
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Celebrated in every city and town across the nation, the Fourth of July drives one of the largest volumes of 911 calls that public safety agencies answer throughout the year. Members of the RapidSOS Public Safety team spoke to us about the challenges public safety agencies, 911 telecommunicators, and first responders face during the Fourth of July holiday. These challenges range from a need for additional staff members, large event situational awareness, an influx of travellers, and floods of emergency and non-emergency calls. 

We will also share insight from our Public Safety team on how additional data from connected devices can help agencies provide fast emergency response during one of our nation’s most important holidays. 

Additional Staff

As crowds begin to gather at parks, beaches, lakes, and other outdoor recreation areas, local public safety agencies have to staff additional telecommunicators and first responders to help address the increased number of calls and emergencies. For example, Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks Show had 6,000 NYPD police officers staffed last year.  During Mardi Gras, Orleans Parish has to increase their staff by over 50% to around 170 telecommunicators.

In a previous webinar, we spoke with an Orleans Parish official about how their agency prepares for the challenging week of Mardi Gras. Listen to the recording to learn more about how agencies can manage emergency response during large-scale events such as the 4th of July.

Heightened Medical Risks

Given that the Fourth of July holiday occurs during the summer months there exists a higher risk of heat related medical emergencies, such as dehydration and heat stroke, which require immediate medical attention. Alcohol consumption also increases the rate of dangerous behavior and injuries. Having a robust and prepared staff of telecommunicators and first responders can ensure timely responses and help save lives. 

Situational Awareness

Outdoor events like parades and concerts draw large crowds and create major street closures. These logistical issues require a coordinated effort between 911 telecommunicators, law enforcement, emergency medical services, and firefighters as crowds make it harder to locate a caller or to get to the emergency. These events require multi-agency situational awareness to ensure a timely and appropriate response from all agencies involved. 

Karin Marquez, our Director of Customer Success, shared the importance of Jurisdiction View, an upcoming feature on RapidSOS Portal, for providing efficient response across an agency’s community. Jurisdiction View will allow public safety agencies and telecommunicators to have incident awareness for all emergencies in a given area, without manually querying individual numbers. This will help telecommunicators manage and prioritize multiple emergencies from a single dashboard. By using RapidSOS Portal alongside other tools, 911 telecommunicators can effectively manage large numbers of calls and dispatch the appropriate response based on rich additional emergency data. 

Travellers 

The Fourth of July is a popular time for many to escape the city, travel to large metro-areas, visit vacation towns, or go anywhere in between. According to the AAA, nearly 49 million Americans will be travelling this Fourth of July holiday. Lasting from Wednesday, July 3rd, to Sunday, July 7th, travellers can help boost local economies during the holiday but can also put a strain on the local agencies’ capacity to appropriately handle emergencies. For a traveller, being in an unknown area can lead them to not know the specifics of their location causing them to give the wrong address or unusable location. 

Furthermore, when the caller is found on a boat, getting an accurate location in a body of water can be a complicated task. Tracy Eldridge, our Public Safety Community Engagement Manager, noted that agencies using RapidSOS Portal have been able to accurately find callers located on a body of water. RapidSOS Portal gives telecommunicators an updated location every few seconds, allowing them to track the caller as they drift down current. 

Dropped Call/Non-emergency Calls

While accidental-dials and hangups are standard challenges for telecommunicators, non-emergency calls skyrocket during the Fourth of July due to inconveniences including firework complaints and lost animal calls; People can also mistake fireworks explosions for gunshots driving up non-emergency calls. These calls can occupy emergency communications center resources and lead to wait-times for actual emergencies.  

As the rest of the nation prepares to celebrate our country’s founding, 911 telecommunicators and first responders are preparing to make sense of the chaos that the Fourth of July brings with it. Additional staff, coordinating situational awareness, and accounting for callers not knowing their location puts a lot of pressure on public safety agencies. Especially on days like the Fourth of July, we’re grateful for all the emergency professionals who work tirelessly to keep us safe.

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