In recent years, tech companies have been eager to develop public safety tech to support emergency services. At RapidSOS, we function at the crossroads between tech and public safety – so we put our expertise to the test.
We surveyed public safety professionals from over 5,200 Emergency Communication Centers (ECCs) around the U.S. to find out how tech companies can help advance emergency response, and in turn, bolster the safety of their users. Let’s find out what experts in public safety want tech companies to know:
1. The Value of Social Media
Social media is centered around real time conversations, live streaming and shared experiences which provide ECCs the location and situational context of an incident. According to survey results, discourse on social media plays an invaluable role in supporting emergency response.
Social media has proved to be a necessity after Hurricane Harvey [when] survivors [used it to communicate with public safety officials and coordinate rescue operations]… it is a community conversation we cannot be left out of and one that has proved its worth during catastrophic incidents.
– Michelle Potts, Communications Manager of Chandler Police Department, AZ
We live in a ‘checked in’ world where social media data and location services are the norm. Having these resources available to dispatchers can help make our communities stronger and safer in moments of crisis.
– Johnathan Danek, Emergency Dispatcher at the Wilbraham Public Safety Communications Center, MA
However, respondents stated that social media can be both an asset and a liability. On scene live streams that capture a large viewership often lead to an influx of 9-1-1 calls. Tech companies can assist ECCs in distinguishing facts from false information by developing methods to parse social media data on a larger scale.
2. Position Dispatchers for Effective Response with Health Data
Seconds save lives – being able to access a 9-1-1 caller’s health data and medical history before arriving on scene is critical to minimizing response time. It enables dispatchers and EMS to know what to expect at a location, and allows them to prepare and allocate resources in advance.
Medical information would help dispatchers and EMS when responding to calls. We would be able to advise rescue and they would at least have a starting point, especially if the person was passed out and no one knew any history.
– Anonymous, AL
3. The Internet of Life-Saving Things
In the Internet of Life-Saving Things, every device has the ability to send data directly to 9-1-1 during an emergency. Information from sources such as smartphone apps, medical profiles, wearable devices, connected cars, smart home systems, and connected buildings enable public safety professionals to respond to incidents with increased efficacy.
The ability to aggregate and put that information to use in public safety is a game changer. A vehicle [should be able to report an accident to 9-1-1] when the person inside is injured and unable to call. A person having a heart attack is saved because an implanted personal telematics device relayed medical history details in real-time. These examples are exciting, but more intriguing are the next steps beyond made possible by these leaps in technology.
– Todd Sparrow, Director of Lawrenceburg 9-1-1, KY
4. Adaptability and Reliability are Key
Tech companies know to listen to their users and conduct market research before launching new products – the same process applies to the public safety audience. Before setting out to solve challenges, tech companies should first understand the needs of the public safety community. Many respondents stressed the importance of introducing technologies that are reliable, practical and can be adopted easily, such as sending data through a secure, centralized Clearinghouse that is already a part of ECC workflows.
IoT will offer technology that we can’t even imagine today… I’d ask the tech companies to never forget their mission to provide equipment that works every time, all the time, 24/7.
– Jon Goldman, Chief Coordinator of Lakes Region Mutual Fire Aid, NH
5. Situational Awareness Shows ECCs the Big Picture
In an emergency, every piece of information that provides additional context speeds up response time. Tech companies can play a significant role in advancing emergency response by empowering ECCs with the necessary life-saving data to help build out the big picture.
In an emergency, the more information available at the dispatcher’s fingertips, the better equipped that dispatcher will be to locate the caller, prepare responders, and give pre-arrival instructions.
– Anne Camaro, Assistant Director of Administration and Training at the City of Cambridge Emergency Communications Department, MA
This is only a fraction of the opportunities that tech companies are beginning to leverage in the public safety space. Forming an Internet of Life-Saving Things that equips ECCs with supplemental data will undoubtedly enhance emergency response, and allow tech companies to bring genuine protection to their users.