On Thursday, December 17th, we debuted the first episode of our new webinar series, Tech for 911. Our host, Jamison Peevyhouse, was joined by Charles Cullen, Technical Director of UCSF Police, for a conversation about one the most impactful trends in emergency response today: data.

Some of the world’s most innovative companies and organizations are sharing data from connected devices and sensors to help protect their customers, families, and communities during emergencies, and it’s changing the way we think about emergency response.

Download the full video of the webinar now, and check out our recap below to learn more.

The top three challenges facing 911 today

2020 has shown us how important it is to support our first responders in their life-saving work to protect our communities, whether they’re treating COVID or battling wildfires. However, the 911 system faces several challenges that makes responding to emergencies more difficult.

1) Staffing shortages

All around the US, ECCs are facing staffing shortages. Whether it’s due to budget constraints, COVID quarantines, or the difficult, demanding nature of the job, it’s difficult for ECCs to keep up with the sheer volume of calls. Notably, 911 calls reached historic levels at the height of the pandemic.

2) Operational challenges

The current 911 infrastructure was built in the 1960s for landline phones, meaning telecommunicators have to rely on the limited information a phone call can provide to dispatch help. This can lead to delays in response, difficulties triaging and managing emergencies, and under-informed first responders on scene.

The lack of information also makes it difficult for first responders to manage scarce emergency resources, especially relative to other emergencies.

“The dispatchers are trying to sort through who has good relevant information so they can send the correct resources to help them…and all of this is happening over audio””

3) Limited data

ECCs have been partnering with public and private data providers to assist the emergency response process, but they lack robust access to information, as well as the ability to process it effectively. The issue comes down to workflows: first responders don’t want to be inundated with irrelevant information, but they need deeper data than they currently receive.

Technologies and solutions to overcome 911’s challenges

There are a variety of solutions available to help improve the emergency response process. From hardware like drones, body cameras, and connected devices, to softwares like emergency response data platforms and more, there are a variety of innovative ways for first responders to overcome these challenges.

Security systems, connected vehicles, smart insurance programs, and even healthcare devices are now able to share potentially life-saving information with first responders during emergencies. This data can drastically alter 911’s approach to different types of emergencies, including the resources they allocate, the routes they travel, and even the specialists they bring.

“The more information you have about an incident (like an active shooter in a school), the better the outcome is going to be.”

The benefits of emergency data in an ECC

Getting data to first responders will have many tangible benefits, both for people in need and for first responders on scene. Although many new technologies are still siloed, there is an incentive for technology providers and private companies alike to participate in the public safety mission.

“Providing us access [to emergency data] would be extremely beneficial to public safety and the common good, and it reflects well on the companies that choose to participate.”

Additionally, by providing data from connected devices, security platforms, or connected vehicles, first responders can provide better protection for those customers and communities. This benefits both the public safety mission and the business goals for partners involved.

The impact, to Charlie, is undeniable: “Faster and more informed response for better outcomes.” This data can help 911 transition their workflows from simply reacting to calls with limited information as best they can, to having the full picture of an emergency the moment it occurs. Whether they’re battling COVID or performing search and rescue after a hurricane, this will change the way first responders approach emergencies.

Be sure to download the full video to learn more. Learn more about the RapidSOS emergency response data platform, and talk to an expert at RapidSOS to get your company connected to 911.