On Wednesday, November 11th, RapidSOS hosted a webinar entitled, “How Tech Companies Work with Public Safety to Protect Lives.” Hosted by Jamison Peevyhouse, RapidSOS’ Director of Customer Success, we discussed the key learnings and pain points of technology companies looking to partner with public safety agencies.
We spoke to Mike Sullivan, Director of Law Enforcement at Uber, Ralph de la Vega, Former CEO of AT&T Mobility, Monica Million, Immediate Past President at NENA, and Michael Martin, CEO of RapidSOS.
Key takeaways include:
Why public safety needs better data
Incentives to partner with public safety
How to build relationships and credibility
Public safety needs better data
The US emergency number system was built in the 1960s for landline phones to contact emergency services, and it didn’t reach widespread usage throughout the US until well into the 1980s. Today, over 240 million people call 911 each year for help in some of their darkest hours, whether it’s for assistance during a car accident, a home invasion, or a medical emergency.
To answer these calls, 911 telecommunicators have to rely on what a caller can verbally articulate about their emergency. During emergencies, however, callers can often be panicked, confused, or they might not even be able to speak. Without reliable or consistent sources of data for things like location, medical history, or additional contextual information, first responders have had to find workarounds to get the right people on scene at the right time.
Michael Martin summarized the problem: “911 has been figuring out workarounds for the lack of data around emergencies for over 50 years, but this 2020. We should not rely on an analog system to save lives.”
The RapidSOS emergency response data platform connects data from millions of connected devices, platforms, and sensors to overcome this challenge. Partners like Uber help deliver life-saving data to first responders during emergencies.
Incentives to partner with public safety
Beyond the societal need to get better data to public safety, there are strong incentives for technology companies to partner with first responders. Namely, that people are looking for products and services that will help them protect themselves and their families during emergencies.
The events of 2020, from fast-sweeping wildfires to the COVID-19 pandemic, have highlighted the need for better safety features and systems across the board. Whether it’s in the home security system someone arms before leaving for work, or the Uber they order to get home, consumers are looking for new ways to protect themselves and their families.
Similarly, businesses are looking to improve their offerings to their customers, especially during such uncertain times. Tying it all together, 911 centers are looking to these technology companies to partner and integrate new sources of data to better serve their communities. Monica Million describes the process as, “changing consumer expectations has a dramatic impact on 911 operations…there’s not only a demand from technology companies, but a desire within 911 to serve their communities better.”
How to build relationships with public safety
Public safety is traditionally a difficult industry to break into, given the stakes, complexity, and regulations surrounding it. As Jamison Peevyhouse describes it, “In public safety, we choose our partners extremely carefully. Every decision we make affects the lives of people in our communities. Partnering with public safety requires a relationship with trust and credibility.”
Partnering with public safety requires their trust and confidence. Data and products need to have a credible use case and a seamless integration into workflows in order to be useful. Doing so requires expertise from within public safety – knowing what solutions they need and how to build them in a way that’s useful for them.
Drawing on his experience building FirstNet, in which public safety and government officials were consulted extensively, Ralph de la Vega noted “If you don’t have that surrounding information that can give you an idea of what they need…you won’t be making the best product possible.”
Demonstrating value, building trust and credibility, and building a product in consultation with public safety, are critical to achieving safety goals. Partnerships are key to building the public safety system of the future, by bringing together solutions, data, and people, to enable faster and smarter emergency response.