Tales from a 9-1-1 First Responder: Jeff Robertson

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In this spotlight, RapidSOS’ new General Manager of Public Safety shares why he wanted to join RapidSOS, the biggest lessons he has learned over his nearly 20-year career in public safety, and the positive impact the RapidSOS Clearinghouse will have on dispatchers nationwide.

What led you to RapidSOS?

I’m a huge proponent of improving the dispatch process. The #1 challenge PSAPs face all around the country is location. Citizens say, «I can order a pizza, I can get an Uber, I can get all these things from my phone, and they can pinpoint my location… Why can’t we when we dial 9-1-1?»

RapidSOS answers this problem and I want to help promote that all across the country.

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What is the biggest lesson you have learned over your nearly 20-year career in public safety?

Public safety doesn’t change very quickly. We have dispatched emergency personnel one way for 50 years now and have seen little change. 9-1-1 works, it’s reliable, it serves a ton of calls every day, but that being said, there are some new methods and technologies available that we need to embrace. I understand that change is difficult and I want to try to help to smooth that over as we move to new technologies.

What are you most looking forward to seeing in public safety in 2018?

I would love for when I explain to some of my friends at a party what I do, that I don’t have to tell them that you can’t text or you can’t get the location to 9-1-1, because they always come back to me like “why can’t I?”

So in 2018 I’d like to say, “listen, boom, you can call 9-1-1 and it’ll get the location from your device and they’ll be able to pinpoint you whether you’re inside the mall or in an apartment complex or somewhere in the middle of a field.” We will finally match the same technology citizens have on their smart devices in 9-1-1.

What is the coolest job you have ever had?

Probably the coolest job I have ever had was in public safety technology when I worked at CML emergency services. In 2001, we did the first location of a wireless phone call and displayed that on a map in Rhode Island and Saint Claire County, IL. It was the first time that a dispatcher could see where a mobile caller was calling from, and at the time the location was just the cell-tower Phase 1 location. It’s exciting to now be at RapidSOS, delivering precise device location to PSAPs for wireless calls.

How will the RapidSOS Clearinghouse impact the day-to-day of dispatchers?

It’s going to give them better information to dispatch the right people faster to an incident and to better serve the public. We don’t want to overwhelm them with too much information but the exact location is so key and any additional data that can help them dispatch will only benefit them.

Interested in learning more about the RapidSOS Clearinghouse? Download the RapidSOS Clearinghouse Overview here

How do you see rich data, beyond precise location, impacting emergency response? 

I think location is probably the most burning problem we have to solve right now and with RapidSOS, we’re going to solve that. But the next step is using ancillary data when the time is right in the response workflow. For example, when someone has a cardiac arrest or a medical emergency — being able to have their pulse rate from the device on their wrist can help a responder to better handle the emergency or be prepared when they get to the scene.

Getting that data to the PSAP is now possible through RapidSOS and the RapidSOS Clearinghouse. I’m looking forward to working with agencies to figure out how best to use that ancillary data.

When you have free time, what are you doing?

My wife and I went to Miami a year ago and we loved the DJ scene there, so I decided I would learn how to DJ. In my spare time, I put together a fair number of mix-tapes for EDM, deep house, and house music. My daughters make fun of their old dad who’s DJ-ing now and sending them mix tapes. I also continue to be involved in hockey.

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